Man charged in attempt to smuggle Brazilian nationals to Puerto Rico
Published: August 10, 2013
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ST. THOMAS - A man charged with trying to smuggle three Brazilian nationals to Puerto Rico had trouble clarifying whether he wanted to plead guilty or not guilty in District Court on Friday.
Gerard Hilaire, 56, of St. Thomas appeared in court to change his plea to guilty on a charge of bringing in and harboring foreign nationals.
However, Hilaire was unable to make it clear whether he actually wanted to change his plea, and the matter was continued to a future, as-yet unscheduled court date.
Hilaire was going to be paid $2,000 for bringing the Brazilians to Puerto Rico, according to court documents. He was accompanied by Juan Carlos Jiminez Minalla, also of St. Thomas, who is facing the same charge. Minalla was going to receive $800 for each foreign national who reached Puerto Rico.
On May 8, Customs and Border Protection Marine Interdiction agents stopped a gray, single-engine fishing boat, of which Hilaire was the captain. Hilaire was with Minalla and the three Brazilians, leaving from Water Bay in Smith Bay.
The agents arrested Hilaire and Minalla, and the boat was towed to the U.S. Coast Guard dock on St. Thomas.
Hilaire and Minalla both gave statements that they knew that the foreign nationals could not enter Puerto Rico without proper government authorization, according to court documents.
Both face maximum penalties of 10 years of incarceration, a $250,000 fine, a three-year term of supervised release and a $100 assessment fee.
- Contact Jenny Kane at 714-9102 or email email@example.com.