Elderly Frenchman pleads guilty to trying to smuggle Cubans into US Virgin Islands

Man in handcuffs on black backgroundST THOMAS, U.S. Virgin Islands, Tuesday August 25, 2015 – A 71-year-old French national has pleaded guilty two 38 counts of alien smuggling, four months after being arrested while trying to smuggle Cubans into the US Virgin Islands.

Alain Rene Leichtnam will be sentenced for his crimes on December 4.

According to the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the elderly man was arrested on April 29 when US Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) and Coast Guard personnel intercepted a sailing vessel heading toward Coral Bay in St. John, US Virgin Islands.

The officials found 38 Cuban nationals and one St. Lucian on board the vessel and Leichtnam admitted that he had been trying to smuggle the Cubans into the US territory for financial gain.

Special agent in charge of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands, Angel Melendez, said the authorities would continue to vigorously enforce the laws that punish smugglers, particularly because many people had lost their lives while attempting the illegal journey.

“Human smugglers have a callous disregard for the value of human life and are only concerned about making a profit. HSI will continue to aggressively work with our U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) partners to identify and arrest those involved in this illicit and dangerous activity,” she said.

ICE has embarked on an ambitious strategy to dismantle organized human smuggling networks.

It pursues intelligence-driven investigations to target large-scale smuggling organizations regardless of where they operate; coordinates with partners at CBP to ensure aggressive investigation and prosecution of smuggling cases along the border; targets all links in the smuggling chain, beyond the immediate smugglers – like overseas recruiters and organizers -; and pursues legislation to increase penalties against organized smugglers.

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