Bahamian Man Charged In US On Three Human Smuggling Incidents

(TRIBUNE 242) – A 33-YEAR-OLD Bahamian man was arrested and charged in the United States yesterday in connection with three maritime human smuggling incidents — including one that resulted in five deaths.

Vandrick Nelson Smith, also known as “Muggy” and “Vans”, was indicted in the Southern District of Florida for his alleged role in a human smuggling conspiracy that resulted in multiple migrant deaths.

He was arrested on March 6 in The Bahamas after a request by the United States involving charges filed under seal in the Southern District of Florida in November last year.

He was accused of being involved in a human smuggling organisation that illegally tried to transport migrants by boat from The Bahamas into the United States on or about March 6, 2021, January 22, 2022, and August 8, 2022.

The migrants were nationals of Colombia, Jamaica, the Dominican Republic, and Haiti, among other countries, and they reportedly paid an unknown amount.

“Vandrick Smith has been charged with organising dangerous human smuggling operations, sending migrants from The Bahamas to Florida by boat,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Nicole M. Argentieri, head of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division in the United States.

“As alleged in the indictment, the human smuggling organisation’s efforts turned deadly when a boat carrying migrants capsized in January 2022. Human smugglers exploit desperate people for money, and the consequences can be tragic. The criminal division is committed to combating human smuggling organisations that prey on and endanger vulnerable migrants, wherever they operate.”

On the evening of January 22 2022, shortly after the vessel’s departure from The Bahamas, the engines allegedly stopped functioning, and the vessel capsized. Two days later, the U.S. Coast Guard rescued the sole surviving migrant, who was found clinging to the top of the overturned vessel according to reroute.

Smith is charged with five counts of attempting to bring non-citizens to the United States, resulting in death; conspiring to bring non-citizens to the United States for profit, placing in jeopardy the life of non-citizens and resulting in death; attempting to bring non-citizens to the United States for profit; and attempting to aid and assist certain non-citizens to enter the United States.

If convicted, Smith faces a maximum penalty of life in prison.

Trial attorney Marie Zisa of the Criminal Division’s Human Rights and Special Prosecutions Section and assistant US attorney Justin Hoover for the Southern District of Florida are prosecuting the case.