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United States and Dominican Republic authorities to prosecute four suspected migrant smugglers

Release Date: 
April 29, 2014
AGUADILLA, Puerto Rico

Four citizens of the Dominican Republic will be prosecuted for charges related to migrant smuggling after unrelated incidents last week. 

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Border Patrol Agents arrested Sunday Rafael Javier Harvey, aka. “Culizo,” and Rafael Mendez-De Leon found in Mona Island.  Naval officers of the Dominican Republic arrested Juan Abraham Ramirez-Rijo and Ruben Hiciano-Paez, after admitting to delivering 12 Haitian migrants to Mona Island on April 23. 

On April 24, the Dominican Navy M2 detained a 19’ yola powered by a 60hp outboard engine, named BRAINY #1, as it beached in Macao, Dominican Republic. Mr. Ramirez-Rijo and Mr. Hiciano-Paez will be prosecuted under the laws of the Dominican Republic for charges related to illegal voyages, migrant smuggling and threatening the Haitians Nationals to throw them overboard during the trip.

“Our transnational collaboration makes it possible for both countries to detain those who, we suspect, continually put the lives of migrants in danger,” stated Chief Patrol Agent Ramiro Cerrillo. 

On April 26, Park Rangers of the Puerto Rico Department of Natural and Environmental Resources found 21 migrants, fifteen males and six females, all claiming to be from Haiti, along with an abandoned white 30 ft. fiberglass vessel on the Playa Mujeres beach.  Later that evening the Park Rangers found two males claiming to be citizens of the Dominican Republic who absconded after landing along with 21 Haitian migrants on Saturday off the western coast of Mona Island.

US Coast Guard transported both groups of migrants from Mona Island to the Mayaguez Port of entry, where CBP Border Patrol Agents assumed custody for immigration processing and removal. 

Mr. Harvey, 40, and Mr. Mendez, 31, will appear on Tuesday April 29 before US District Court Magistrate Judge Camille L. Velez-Rive for an initial appearance regarding federal charges for migrant smuggling and re-entry after a prior removal .   

The Caribbean Border Interagency Group (CBIG) was formally created to unify efforts of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the U.S. Coast Guard, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the United States Attorney's Office for the District of Puerto Rico, and Puerto Rico Police Joint Rapid Action Forces (FURA, for its Spanish acronym), in their common goal of securing the Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands borders against illegal migrant and drug smuggling.