Migrant smugglers sentenced to combined 55 years in federal prison

MIAMI — A U.S. District Court judge sentenced six migrant smugglers to nearly 55 years imprisonment and 16 years supervised release during proceedings held Monday at a Miami courthouse.

U.S. District Court Judge K. Michael Moore sentenced defendant Alexis Cervantes to 108 months in prison, to be followed by four years of supervised release, and defendant Elieten Mendoza to 70 months in prison, to be followed by four years supervised release. These two defendants both previously pled guilty to conspiracy to smuggle aliens, resulting in the death of a Cuban migrant. Additionally, Cervantes pled guilty for failure to follow Coast Guard instructions.

Moore sentenced each defendant Michel Lopez, Brainer Gomez-Cruz, Humberto Carrazana and Arley Ceballo-Gonzalez to 120 months in prison, to be followed by two years supervised release, resulting from their conviction of 33 counts of conspiracy to smuggle aliens and encouraging and inducing aliens to enter the U.S. illegally.

Customs and Border Patrol Air and Marine aircraft agents located two suspicious vessels tied up to one another west of Andros Island, Bahamas Sept. 23, 2008. One of the vessels operated by Cervantes and Mendoza, had a large number of passengers aboard. While CBP Air and Marine agents monitored the vessels, a third vessel operated by Lopez, Gomez-Cruz, and Ceballo-Gonzalez, arrived on scene and tied up to the other vessels.

The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Pea Island interdicted the vessel operated by Cervantes and Mendoza carrying 33 migrants and 2 suspected smugglers, the crew discovered an unconscious male without a pulse who appeared to have suffered blunt force trauma.

Search and rescue coordinators at the Seventh Coast Guard District launched an HH-65C Dolphin helicopter crew who hoisted the migrant and transferred him to local authorities. The victim ultimately died as a result of the injury.

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