MIAMI – A Haitian man was charged with human smuggling Monday after federal authorities accused him of piloting a boat overloaded with migrants that capsized off Florida's coast, killing at least nine people.
Jimmy Metellus faces charges of smuggling that caused the death of another person. He was scheduled to make an initial court appearance Wednesday in West Palm Beach. Court documents did not list an attorney for him.
Metellus was among 16 people rescued when the boat capsized early last Wednesday off Boynton Beach, about 60 miles north of Miami. Most of the survivors will be deported to their home countries under U.S. policy. Fifteen of the survivors are Haitian and one is Jamaican.
According to a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent, Metellus told investigators he was hired by a man known only as "Shine" to pilot the vessel from the Bahamas to the U.S. with about 30 undocumented migrants aboard. The affidavit says Metellus was offered $6,000 for the trip but decided instead to be paid with free passage on the boat.
"He said that the boat was going to Miami, Florida, and that he was going to beach it in Miami and leave it," ICE agent Jon Longo said in the affidavit.
One survivor, who identified Metellus as the boat's captain, told agents that his brother had paid the smugglers $4,000 for him to make the ill-fated trip. It was unclear in the affidavit how many other people were involved in the smuggling operation.
That survivor, who was not identified, said the boat ran out of fuel after leaving Nassau, Bahamas, and drifted for about three days until a small boat arrived with more fuel. The migrants then were taken to a house in Bimini, Bahamas, and later set off for Florida's southeastern coast.
The survivor said he had been in the Bahamas for five months waiting for a smuggling trip to the U.S., according to the ICE affidavit.