Migrant Smuggler Sentencedto 8 Years in Prison

MIAMI – A Cuban migrant smuggler who led Marathon, Fla., and Key West, Fla., Coast Guardsmen on a dangerous boat chase May 4, 2006, was sentenced to 96 months’ imprisonment Tuesday in U.S. District Court after having been found guilty by a jury Nov. 1, 2006, of 24 counts of alien smuggling and one count of failure to heave-to law enforcement.

Albert Pina-Suarez, 24, of Miami, was operating a “go-fast” vessel with 24 illegal undocumented migrants on board, 35 miles south of Key West on May 4, 2006 when detected by a U.S. Coast Guard aircrew. Boat crews from Coast Guard Stations Marathon and Key West intercepted Pina-Suarez six miles south of Summerland Key, Fla.

The Coast Guard boats activated their blue law enforcement lights and emergency sirens, but Pina-Suarez refused to stop (heave-to) when ordered to do so by the Coast Guard. The chase ended, nearly an hour after it started, when Pina-Suarez ran his vessel aground at Pye Key, Fla. When the boat went aground, 23 Cuban nationals jumped off into the shallow water and ran onto Pye Key. One migrant broke his leg during the incident. Pina-Suarez then tried to flee but was captured by U.S. Customs and Border Protection Marine Agents.

“Tuesday’s sentencing demonstrates the resolve of the U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, U.S. Border Patrol and the U.S. Attorney’s Office to eliminate migrant smuggling,” said Rear Adm. David W. Kunkel, commander of the Seventh Coast Guard District. “Migrant smugglers are ruthless criminals, motivated by greed, who operate overloaded vessels in a reckless manner, needlessly endangering the lives of the people they exploit and the lives of law enforcement officers.

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