Court confirms guilt five human smugglers

POSTED: 04/20/11 12:37 PM

Cab driver to prison for 4 years and 10 months

St. Maarten – The Court in First Instance sentenced five defendants for human smuggling and membership of a criminal organization to prison terms from 23 months to 6 years and 10 months yesterday. One defendant was acquitted.

“Human smuggling is a crime that thwarts the government policy of St. Maarten and other countries with regard to the fight against illegal residence,” Judge Mr. M. Keppels wrote in her verdicts.

Louis Bernard, a 44-year-old Haitian, was on the receiving end of the most severe sentence. Judge Mr. M. Keppels sentenced him to 6 years and 10 months for his involvement in the transport of illegals with the Jesus La on December 14 of last year. The boat sank near Tortola and eight passengers drowned. Bernard was also involved in a transport on August 14. He spent eleven weeks too long in a police cell and the court granted him a 14 month sentence reduction for it. The prosecution had demanded a 10 year sentence.

Cab driver Erold Montgomery Bolan, described by the prosecution as a major player in the local market for human smuggling, was sentenced to 4 years and 10 months. The prosecution had demanded 7 years. The 64-year-old was involved in transports on August 14, in several attempts to transport illegals from St. Maarten to the US Virgin Islands and in a transport of ten Cubans on November 14. The prosecution demanded that the court confiscate Bolan’s taxi and bus 4G, but Keppels did not go along because there is no list of confiscated goods in the case-file.

Louis Saint-Marc, a 63-year-old Haitian who was involved in the fatal December 5 transport, received a sentence reduction of 14 months for the eleven weeks he spent too long in a police cell and got off with a prison sentence of 4 years and 10 months. The prosecution demanded 8 years against Saint-Marc.

Griffith Owner Joseph, the 35-year-old captain of the Braveheart that brought the ten Cubans to St. Maarten in November, also benefited from a 14-month sentence reduction. That left him with a 10-month sentence. The prosecution demanded 30 months.

Humphrey Joaquin Pisas, a 60-year-old from Curacao, was also involved in the December 5 transport. After a 7 month sentence reduction, he remained stuck with a sentence of 23 months, of which 8 months are suspended. The court imposed a 2-year probation term. The prosecution had demanded 30 months.

Paul C., a 61-year-old from Tortola who claimed he was vacationing at the house of cab driver Bolan, was acquitted. Though he was in Bolan’s cab when he was arrested with ten illegal Cubans, the court found no proof that he assisted Bolan or others in any way. The prosecution had demanded18 months.

Three of the defendants – Bolan, Bernard and Saint-Marc – were sentenced for membership of a criminal organization.

The court based the convictions on information gathered from phone taps, statements from co-suspects and witnesses, and observations.

“The taps are supported on essential points by observations and statements from co-suspects and witnesses. This organizing takes place in such a structured way that there is also proof for membership of a criminal organization,” Judge Keppels wrote in her considerations.


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