Federal officials say that human smugglers are using recreational yachts to carry dozens of Chinese without papers from the Bahamas into South Florida. The Coast Guard has stopped two boats, one a 63-foot Sunseeker and the other a 70-foot Hatteras (pictured above), as they approached South Florida. Federal authorities charged three men who were running the boats with human smuggling, and said that each of the Chinese paid them thousands of dollars for the trip.
In the most recent case, the Coast Guard stopped the Sunseeker, INXS FINALLY, which was carrying 14 Chinese and one Bahamian to the U.S. from the Bahamas. None of them had proper papers to enter the U.S. A federal indictment said that the Coast Guard found $172,000 in Bahamian dollars and $41,000 in U.S. dollars on the boat. Rocco Oppedisano, 51, an Italian who was driving the boat, has been arraigned in a federal court in Miami on charges of transporting aliens to the U.S.
In the second case, the Coast Guard Cutter Paul Clark stopped the Hatteras, named Carefree, about 10 miles east of Port Everglades. In a radio message, the Coast Guard asked how many people were on board, and the response was that there were two crew and eight Japanese passengers with passports.
The Coast Guard boarded the Hatteras and found 12 passengers with passports from the People’s Republic of China but no visas to enter the U.S. In a search, the Coast Guard discovered $118,000 hidden behind the wall paneling in the master stateroom. The captain, James A. Bradford, and Robert L. McNeil, Jr., an Atlanta businessman, were indicted on charging of bring the Chinese here for financial gain.
McNeil pleaded guilty to one count; he faces up to ten years in prison. Bradford is awaiting trial. Read more: