Details of previously unknown gun shipment revealed
A third suspect in the Florida-to-Grand Cayman guns shipment case was arrested earlier this month in the United States and now faces charges in a federal court indictment issued out of Fort Lauderdale.
Tito Bonilla, identified as a citizen of the Cayman Islands, is charged in a three-count indictment before the US District Court in the southern district of Florida. According to federal court records, the counts allege Bonilla conspired to defraud the United States, smuggled firearms and ammunition and delivered firearms and ammunition to a common carrier without notice.
Bonilla is charged in the same US court indictment as Caymanians Mikkyle Brandon Leslie and Alexander Michael Henry (identified earlier by the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service as Michael Alexander Henry). Three other unnamed individuals have also been charged in the case, according to records examined by the Caymanian Compass.
Bonilla pleaded not guilty to the charges last week in federal court.
About a dozen people, most of them Caymanians, are named in court records as having played some part in a gun-running operation between south Florida and Grand Cayman that occurred during 2008 and 2009. Not all of those individuals have been charged in US federal court. At least two, Michael Ebanks and Robert Terry, have been charged and sentenced for various gun related crimes in the Cayman Islands; crimes that have some connection to the Florida gun shipping case.
According to US court records, Bonilla entered the United States on 11 August on a visa that had been revoked by the Customs and Border Protection agency based on outstanding arrest warrants related to the firearms shipping case. He could face a jail sentence of between five and seven years if convicted and US prosecutors have asked that he be kept in prison until trial.
Federal court records requesting pre-trial detention of Bonilla give some insight into the specific allegations against him. The names of individuals who have not already been charged locally or in the US in connection with the case are being left out by the Compass for legal reasons.
The pre-trial detention request states: “On or about September 11, 2008, defendant Mikkyle Brandon Leslie, using the name Mikkyle Ebanks and [named individual No. 1] delivered a refrigerator to Tropical Shipping, Thompson Line, a division of Tropical Shipping and Construction Co. Ltd., Thompson Shipping Co. Ltd. in Miami, Florida to be sent to [named individual No. 2] in Grand Cayman. The sign-in sheet at Thompson Shipping shows that Mikkyle Ebanks signed for the out-going shipment.
“On or about September 29, 2008, the refrigerator which was sent by Mikkyle Brandon Leslie and [named individual No. 1] to [named individual No. 2] arrived in Grand Cayman and was picked up by [named individual No. 2], defendant Robert Terry and defendant Tito Bonilla. Documents from the Collector of Customs, Grand Cayman, show that [named individual No. 2] received the refrigerator which had been purchased by defendant Mikkyle Brandon Leslie … and that the refrigerator was loaded into a truck by defendant Robert Terry. These records also show that the licence plate on the truck was registered to defendant Tito Bonilla’s [relative].
“Information provided by a co-operating witness establishes that defendant Alexander Michael Henry had told [the witness] about how Henry had been involved in the shipment of a refrigerator containing guns from the United States to Grand Cayman in September 2008. Henry informed [the witness] that he [Henry] was getting paid $2,500 for assisting in getting the shipment through Cayman Customs. The witness stated that the refrigerator was shipped through Thompson/Hyde Shipping and was picked up at the Cayman port by defendant Tito Bonilla. According to [the witness] defendant Robert Terry, who is defendant Tito Bonilla’s cousin, went to defendant Tito Bonilla and stated that he needed to clear a refrigerator at the port.
“Defendant Robert Terry and defendant Tito Bonilla helped [named individual No. 2] clear the refrigerator at the port and they took it [to] defendant Tito Bonilla’s house.”
According to federal court records, the unnamed witness was then told to come over to Bonilla’s house where the guns were taken from the bottom part of the refrigerator.
“The [witness] stated that defendant Robert Terry was the one who unscrewed the panels and took the guns out of the refrigerator … The [witness] stated that [the witness] saw a Mak-90, an AK-type rifle, a 9×19 rifle which holds 10 shots and an AR-15 high-power rifle. The [witness] stated that defendant Tito Bonilla was going to keep a firearm as part of the deal.”
The US authorities also describe a statement given to them by Bonilla following his arrest on 11 August. He confirmed that he was called to assist in picking up the refrigerator from the port in Grand Cayman.
“Bonilla stated that he left work and met defendant Robert Terry and [named individual No. 2] at the port. Defendant Bonilla further stated that [named individual No. 2] did the paperwork while defendant Bonilla and defendant Robert Terry loaded the refrigerator into defendant Bonilla’s truck. Defendant Bonilla stated that they drove the truck to co-conspirator Michael Ebanks’ house and took the refrigerator into the house … Defendant Bonilla stated that several guns, including an AR-15 assault rifle, an AK-47 assault rifle and a 9mm semi-automatic rifle with a black plastic stock were concealed in cut outs in the refrigerator door insulation.”
In addition, about 10 boxes of various ammunition were concealed in the freezer compartment of the refrigerator, federal court records quote Bonilla as stating. The weapons were divvied up among four people present at the house, according to the statement.
As with all such records, federal court indictments and supporting documentation are simply accusations of wrong-doing, not convictions. Bonilla has pleaded not guilty to the charges against him.