Oct. 20, 2004 – Authorities accused a U.S. citizen and British Virgin Islander with conspiracy to smuggle 19 illegal immigrants into the territory Wednesday.
U.S. citizen Claudell Prosper, whose home town and state were not released by authorities, and Karl Potter, a citizen of the British Virgin Islands, tried to smuggle seven Chinese nationals, six Dominican nationals, four Haitians, a Jamaican and one person from Dutch St. Maarten into St. Thomas Sunday, according to a criminal complaint filed by the U.S. Attorney's office.
Citing security concerns, Azekah Jennings, U.S. Attorney spokesman, would not say where the men were being held pending a detention hearing next week. He also could not say when an official indictment would be pursued.
Prosper, Potter and the immigrants allegedly ran into a reef near Little Hans-Lollik Island north of St. Thomas. They swam to the uninhabited island after the 30-foot powerboat, Banshee, broke apart on the reef, according to the complaint.
Most of the migrants suffered minor injuries in the wreck.
U.S. Coast Guard and Virgin Islands officials transported the immigrants and Prosper to St. Thomas and Potter to Roy L. Schneider Hospital for treatment for a severe leg fracture, officials said.
The 19 immigrants allegedly met Prosper and Potter in French St. Martin, paying $400 to $1,000 to be smuggled in the United States.
If found guilty of migrant smuggling, Potter and Prosper could be sentenced to 10 years in prison, Jennings said.
The Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement initially reported it was an American who broke his leg in the boat crash and that only one Haitian and 10 Dominicans were aboard.
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