Two Honduran nationals looking for Cubans ended up jailed in Cayman for landing here without permission from Immigration officers.
Casey Johanan Hynds, 29, was sentenced to nine months imprisonment after pleading guilty to illegal landing and assisting another person to land/depart without permission.
That other person was Wilmer Enrique Herrera, also 29, who served as crew on the boat captained by Hynds. Herrera received three months.
The illegal landings occurred on 21 May and 24 May. The men appeared in Summary Court on Thursday, 5 June.
Herrera was assisted by an interpreter. Hynds, who previously worked in Cayman, did not require an interpreter.
Senior Crown Counsel Gail Johnson said Immigration officers were advised on 24 May by the Marine Unit that two men had been apprehended who were suspected of entering Cayman illegally.
Officers questioned Hynds, who said he and Herrera were Honduran fishermen. They were in Cayman waters because they ran out of fuel. He further admitted he had been hired by Cubans in Honduras to look for Cubans. He said he asked Herrera to go with him to look for missing fishermen.
Out of Honduran waters, Hynds used a satellite phone to make contact with a friend in Cayman. Arrangements were made for Hynds to dock here to get fuel and oil. That took place on 21 May. The men returned on 24 May because they were again running low on fuel and again had made contact with the person in Cayman.
Ms Johnson did not say how or where Hynds obtained fuel.
For illegal landing, the Immigration Law provides a sentence of up to five years and a fine of $20,000. For someone who knowingly assists another person to land or depart illegally, the sentence is up to seven years and a fine of $50,000.
Chief Magistrate Margaret Ramsay-Hale said offences of this kind were dangerous because when people enter the community and nothing is known about them, they can do untold damage.
Most cases of illegal landing here have to do with people seeking asylum, she said. In this case, the men entered illegally to refuel because they were searching for some Cubans and couldn’t find them.
If Hynds had been facilitating the entry of Cubans into Cayman, his sentence would have been five to six years, she emphasised. He was part of an enterprise to facilitate the entry of Cubans into his own jurisdiction, so he did not fall to be sentenced for that intent in Cayman’s court.
Hynds had told local officials he would have been paid US$2,000 per person. ‘Obviously there is much money to be made from this trade,’ the magistrate commented. She was reminded it was a local person who had assisted Hynds in getting fuel and investigations were ongoing in that respect.
She said the circumstances of Hynds and Herrera were different, so their sentences were different. Hynds had been in Cayman twice before on work permits and knew about immigration laws. Herrera had never been here before; he did not initially know he was going to look for Cubans and he would have been paid US$1,000.
Ms Johnson had requested forfeiture of the vessel, the GPS navigation equipment and the satellite phone. The magistrate agreed. The vessel was described as a purpose-built 38-foot ‘go fast’ boat.
The men were advised of their right to appeal within seven days.