An accused human trafficker and the Haitian immigrant he attempted to bring to the shores of St. John both admitted to breaking the law Monday in District Court.
The two defendants were arrested by federal authorities as they traveled from Tortola towards the waters of the Virgin Islands National Park.
U.S. Magistrate Ruth Miller accepted the guilty pleas of defendants Shedron Richardson and Joly Lois at a hearing held Monday. Richardson admitted he piloted a boat towards St. John at the time he and two passengers were intercepted by agents of U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
Court documents filed in the case said the three individuals were apprehended Oct. 4 when a CPB patrol saw a vessel operating at night with its lights off, headed south.
Lois admitted being one of two Haitian immigrants on board. He also admitted through an interpreter that he knew his attempt to enter the U.S. through an unauthorized landing was illegal.
Richardson was charged with attempted alien smuggling. Lois admitted guilt to a single charge of attempted illegal entry by an alien and concealing the facts.
Prosecutors with the U.S. Attorney’s Office read a proffer at the Monday hearing that described what they were ready to prove in court against the two defendants. They cited investigator’s reports saying Customs and Border Protection Agents interdicted a vessel around 10 p.m. Oct. 4. At the time, they said, the vessel was on course for the VINP shoreline.
When interviewed by investigators, Richardson said he was paid $100 apiece to smuggle two Haitian immigrants from Tortola to the U.S.
Lois told the court on Monday he tried to enter the U.S. Virgin Islands in hopes of finding work.
Just before Miller pronounced his penalty, the defendant said he was desparate for work in order to support his two children, who have been living with their grandmother after the death of their mother.
Having failed in the attempt, the defendant asked for deportation.
“I would like to be returned as quickly as possible, so I can return home,” Lois said.
Miller granted the request, sentencing Lois to time served, at the same time advising him the case would be turned over to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement for deportation.
The vessel operator was ordered to return to court for sentencing at a later date. The maximum penalty for attempted alien smuggling is six to 12 months in prison and a maximum fine of $55,000.
Both defendants were turned over to the U.S. Marshal Service at the end of Monday’s hearing.