News Column

2 Plead Guilty to Smuggling Immigrants to South Florida

June 13, 2012

Paula McMahon

Two men pleaded guilty to helping smuggle illegal immigrants into the country through South Florida in two separate federal cases in court on Wednesday.

Hebert Lourival De Lopes Almeida, 26, admitted to six counts of encouraging and inducing foreign nationals to enter the U.S., knowing that they were not authorized to be here.

De Lopes Almeida planned to pick up six Brazilian citizens, including one child, and smuggle them into Broward County at the 14th Street Boat Ramp in Pompano Beach, according to court records.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers recorded video of De Lopes Almeida piloting a rented 23-foot vessel from Pompano Beach to Bimini where he picked up the six people on April 16, prosecutors said.

Agents stopped and boarded the boat on the way back and Almeida gave them a fraudulently obtained Florida driver's license, they said. Agents then took the boat's occupants to Port Everglades for questioning.

The boat captain and his passengers were all Brazilian citizens and four of the five adult passengers had been caught trying to enter the country at various borders in the past, prosecutors said.

Under questioning, De Lopes Almeida told agents that he rented the boat in Pompano Beach and the six people flew from Brazil to Bimini, with stopovers in Panama and Nassau, Bahamas. At least two of the people were to pay $14,000 and $15,000 once they arrived safely, and some of the others were supposed to pay $3,000, according to court records.

Some of the money was to be paid to De Lopes Almeida when he traveled to Brazil to visit his ill father, the boat passengers told agents.

De Lopes Almeida faces up to 10 years imprisonment and a $250,000 fine for each offense when he is sentenced later this year in federal court in Fort Lauderdale.

In a separate case, Juscelio Joaquim Dorneles pleaded guilty on Wednesday in federal court in West Palm Beach to one count of conspiring to help illegal immigrants enter the country. Dorneles admitted that between July and December 2009, he conspired with another man in Palm Beach and Broward counties to help people illegally enter the U.S.

Dorneles, 36, admitted he deposited cash at banks in Massachusetts that was then used to buy a boat to smuggle several people into the South Florida area in September, court records show. Dorneles and others would then help the people find temporary housing in South Florida and would assist them in moving to New Jersey and Massachusetts.

Dorneles also faces up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine when he is sentenced later this year in federal court in West Palm Beach.



Source: (c) 2012 the Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.)