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HomeNewsLocal newsFrench National Pleads Guilty to Smuggling Immigrants

French National Pleads Guilty to Smuggling Immigrants

A French national, Alain Rene Leichtnam, 71, pleaded guilty Wednesday in U.S. District Court on St. Thomas to 38 criminal charges related to his allegedly encouraging and causing foreign nationals to enter the U.S. in violation of law, U.S. Attorney Ronald Sharpe announced.

According to the plea agreement, U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the U.S. Coast Guard intercepted the sailing vessel Mazurka heading toward Coral Bay on St. John, early in the morning of April 29.

Agents reportedly saw Leichtnam operating the vessel and identified 38 Cuban nationals and one national of St. Lucia onboard. According to court records, Leichtnam admitted that he transported the Cuban nationals to the United States for pay and knew it was illegal.

Leichtnam was turned over to the custody of the United States Marshals Service until sentencing, scheduled for Dec. 4.

“Those responsible for encouraging and inducing immigrants to enter the United States illegally are placing personal profit ahead of public safety and the lives of the immigrants,” Sharpe said. “This conviction should warn those involved in this dangerous and illegal activity that it comes with a high price.”

"Tragically, many have lost their lives while attempting this illegal and treacherous trip. Human smugglers have a callous disregard for the value of human life and are only concerned about making a profit," Angel Melendez, special agent in charge of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations in the region said.

The case was investigated by ICE with the assistance of CBP and the USCG. It is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Kim L. Chisholm.

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