Cayman-Florida gun smuggling case unresolved

 

At least three more Cayman Islands men are still facing charges in connection with a gun smuggling operation that U.S. authorities said occurred between South Florida and Grand Cayman during 2008 and 2009. 

However, any indication of what might happen in the ongoing investigation has not been revealed in U.S. district court records or by local authorities.  

According to U.S. court indictments, local residents Robert Terry, Marvin Matthew Watson and Kyle Santamaria are still facing charges in the investigation and those cases have not been disposed of in court.  

The three men were charged along with Mikkyle Brandon Leslie, Alexander Michael Henry [referred to in some records as Michael Alexander Henry] and Tito Bonilla. Bonilla pleaded guilty to one count of conspiring to transport firearms and was deported from the U.S. All charges against Henry were eventually dropped. 

Leslie pleaded guilty in February to one of seven counts in a U.S. federal court indictment, receiving a 46-month prison sentence in Fort Lauderdale, Florida with an additional three-year period of supervised release.  

According to count one of the federal indictment, Leslie “did knowingly and wilfully combine, conspire, confederate and agree with persons known and unknown … to knowingly and wilfully deliver and cause to be delivered to a common carrier … a package or container containing a firearm and ammunition without written notice to the carrier that such firearm and ammunition was being transported and shipped … and did knowingly and fraudulently export, attempt to export, and send from the United States to a place outside the U.S., that is, the Cayman Islands, merchandise, articles and objects, that is, firearms and ammunition, contrary to the laws and regulations of the United States …” 

In return for the guilty plea to count one of the indictment, the U.S. government agreed to dismiss counts two through seven in the charge against Leslie, who might have faced 20 to 30 years in prison if convicted on all counts.  

Terry is serving a 12-year prison sentence in the Cayman Islands on a conviction relating to possession of a weapon that U.S. authorities believed to be part the Florida-Cayman gun smuggling.  

Watson’s and Santamaria’s respective fates in connection with the firearm smuggling investigation are unknown at this stage. Officials with the U.S. District Court in the Southern District of Florida said last week that the case was still pending and, therefore, prosecutors couldn’t comment on it.  

A Royal Cayman Islands Police Service spokesperson said Friday that the department was awaiting extradition orders from U.S. authorities in the case.  

Three of the suspects, Leslie, Bonilla and Henry were all arrested by U.S. Marshals at various airports after travelling to the United States. No one involved in the investigation has yet been extradited to the U.S. from Cayman.  

 

Conspiracy 

Although some details of the Florida-Cayman gun smuggling operation had been reported by the Caymanian Compass in 2009, the full extent of the investigation was not known publicly until the newspaper obtained a probable cause affidavit filed by U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives investigators in early December 2011.  

That document, required to be filed so officers could arrest Mikkyle Brandon Leslie, named roughly a dozen other individuals who U.S. authorities believed played some role in the gun smuggling operation. Again, the affidavit does not amount to criminal charges against those named individuals, in fact several individuals named in the document have never been charged in either the U.S. or the Cayman Islands.  

However, statements made in the document indicate the named individuals – most of whom are Caymanians – “were identified as participants in the firearms smuggling activities.”  

The original indictment against Leslie also names several other individuals in recounting what U.S. authorities believe to have occurred with the gun smuggling case during 2008. 

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