As soon as they hit the beach the morning of Dec. 20 after 12 hours of being adrift, the Spanish-speaking people started running.
At least that's what Renado Shavar Smith, one of two Bahamian men accused of human smuggling by boat, allegedly told agents.
"Smith indicated that the three 'Spanish' people took off running and he never saw them again," alleges a criminal complaint filed Thursday by a U.S. Border Patrol agent in the West Palm Beach federal court.
The boat, a 22-foot Mako center console fishing vessel with an outboard motor and no visible name or registration numbers, had run up on the beach near the 1900 block of South Ocean Boulevard in Manalapan just before 5 a.m. After allegedly ferrying three Dominican migrants from the Bahamas, it was disabled. Boynton Beach police arrived to investigate.
Discarded wet clothes lay in the grass near the boat – a sign of illegal immigration by sea. According to the complaint, migrants often change into dry clothes to better blend in. Police also found a Dominican Republic passport.
Two men who identified themselves as Ahmad P. Rolle and Renado S. Smith were found at a nearby gas station. They had no documents allowing them to be in the U.S., the complaint said.
Smith told police the two were "island hopping" in the Bahamas when their boat broke down, causing them to drift for 12 hours.
Questioned further, Smith allegedly admitted to helping facilitate a smuggling operation.
He told U.S. Border Patrol agents in a videotaped statement that he and his friend Rolle were contacted by a man who was to pay both of them $5,000 to smuggle three Dominican nationals from the Bahamas to the U.S., the complaint said. Shown the Dominican passport found near the boat, Smith said the male in the passport picture was one of the migrants, agents said.
Each of the five people on the boat had contributed $3,000 to buy the vessel, Smith said, according to the complaint.
Smith told agents there were originally 10 people that were supposed to be part of the trip. After a few botched attempts at the crossing, only three people opted to complete the journey.
Thirteen life jackets were found on the boat and another two were located on the beach. That number seemed "excessive," the complaint said, as there was only one seat on the boat.
Smith, of the Bahamas, is charged with one federal count of alien smuggling.
It was not clear what charges, if any, Rolle was facing. The complaint said that both Rolle and Smith were placed under administrative arrest and processed at a U.S. Border Patrol station.
It also wasn't clear if Rolle was related to Renwood Rolle, another Bahamian accused of boat smuggling in connection with a migrant vessel intercepted by the Coast Guard on Dec. 24.
In that case, five Chinese nationals – four of them women – were taken into U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody after a failed boat crossing from the Bahamas. That situation also involved a 20-foot center console Mako fishing boat with an outboard motor – although this one had a name: 'Cold Sport.'
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