CBP Jacksonville Air Branch Foils Maritime Human Smuggling Attempt; 5 Prosecuted and Sentenced
Jacksonville, Fla. - On August 29, 2009, while supporting a joint operation with the United States Coast Guard, a Jacksonville Air and Marine Branch PA-42 CHET (Customs and Border Protection High Endurance Tracker), based out of Naval Air Station Jacksonville, Fla., detected a suspicious vessel at 11:30 p.m. traveling westbound at almost 45 miles per hour near the shores of West Palm Beach, Fla., without any navigation lights.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents on board the aircraft requested assistance from the USCG who subsequently dispatched two 25' Defender class boats from Lake Worth Inlet, Fla. The USCG boats were vectored via communication from the aircrew to the vessels location using the aircrafts sophisticated on-board radar and imaging equipment.
The vessel was interdicted and boarded approximately six miles offshore from West Palm Beach, Fla. The five passengers, all of whom had previously been convicted of aggravated felony offenses - including drug trafficking, aggravated assault on a law enforcement officer and attempted armed robbery with a firearm - were attempting to surreptitiously re-enter the United States. Geno Rolle, the captain of the boat, had also been previously deported from the United States.
Rolle was found guilty after a jury trial of two counts of aiding and assisting aggravated felons with entering the United States and one count of illegally re-entering the United States. Four of the passengers were found guilty after a jury trial and the fifth pled guilty.
The captain of the smuggling boat, Geno Rolle, 27, of the Bahamas, was sentenced February 19, in the United States Southern District Court of Florida to 11 years and 3 months imprisonment. On February 26, United States District Court Judge Kenneth L. Ryskamp sentenced co-defendant Edgar Lanau to 82 months imprisonment, co-defendant Royan Walters to 41 months imprisonment, co-defendant Tracy Joseph to 78 months, and co-defendant Jean Simbert to 63 months imprisonment. All of the defendants were sentenced for attempting to illegally enter the United States aboard Rolle's boat. A fifth passenger, Audley Similien, was also convicted of attempting to illegally re-enter the United States after having been previously deported, and was sentenced to 41 months imprisonment.
The teamwork demonstrated between CBP Office of Air and Marine, ICE, CBP Office of Field Operations, U.S. Border Patrol and USCG during this joint air and marine interdiction effort is a prime example of the Department of Homeland Security's ability to utilize assets together as a "Force Multiplier." This successful border interdiction mission resulted in the arrests, prosecution, and sentencing of six very dangerous aggravated felons with extensive criminal histories.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection is the unified border agency within the Department of Homeland Security charged with the management, control and protection of our nation's borders at and between the official ports of entry. CBP is charged with keeping terrorists and terrorist weapons out of the country while enforcing hundreds of U.S. laws.