A man who identified himself as a Cuban national pleaded guilty in Summary Court on Tuesday afternoon to illegal landing and working without a permit. Magistrate Kirsty-Ann Gunn sentenced 45-year-old Diogene Fermin Garcia to 20 days’ imprisonment.
Crown counsel Kenneth Ferguson told the court that Garcia was arrested on Jan. 10 after the police helicopter crew spotted a suspicious vessel – a 35-foot Go-fast – with two men aboard off Barkers in West Bay. Marine unit officers aboard the Niven D intercepted the boat, bringing the men to shore.
One was a West Bay resident; the other was the defendant. He did not speak English and was interviewed with the assistance of a Spanish-speaking officer. He had the assistance of a court-appointed interpreter in court.
Garcia told authorities he was en route to Honduras when his sailboat went onto a reef. Since the reef was close to land, he came ashore. He said his Cuban identification papers were lost.
Mr. Ferguson told the court that Garcia reported working for several people as a gardener, but he could not name any of them. He also said he worked at a Seven Mile Beach resort through someone he met. He had earned $5 to $10 per day trimming coconut trees.
Garcia said he met the West Bay man at a shop in that district. The man subsequently invited him to take a ride on a boat; the man did not know Garcia was in Cayman illegally, the defendant emphasized.
Mr. Ferguson advised that authorities were checking to see if Garcia actually was a Cuban national.
Mr. Ferguson said the defendant was likely to be deported after any sentence, so authorities needed to know his nationality.
Asked by the magistrate if he wanted to be sentenced that day or wait, or if there were any matters he wanted to bring to the court’s attention, Garia replied through the interpreter, “Nothing to say. I just want to go back to Cuba.”
Proceeding to sentence, Magistrate Gunn said she considered the circumstances in which Garcia said he had come to Cayman, as there was nothing to cast doubt on his account. But she pointed out that he should have reported to authorities. Instead, he had avoided police and immigration officers and had worked to sustain himself.
Both offenses were serious, she said, because the laws were designed to protect Cayman’s borders, the people living here and the economy. The penalty was custody because the message had to be sent that Cayman will not tolerate people coming here illegally.
The magistrate concluded that Garcia had shown remorse and saved court time by pleading guilty. His sentence was therefore the shortest possible time she could give. She imposed 20 days for illegal landing and seven days concurrent for working without a permit.
“At the end of your sentence, it will be a matter for Immigration authorities as to what will happen to you and they will no doubt speak to you before the end of your sentence,” she told Garcia.
He pleaded guilty to landing in Cayman without the permission of an immigration officer on or before Jan. 10 and engaging in gainful employment by working as a gardener between Nov. 15, 2015 and Jan. 10, 2016. Further checks indicated that Garcia landed here on a date closer to Dec. 15, but that time span is within the period specified in the charge.
Mr. Ferguson told the court that Garcia reported working for several persons as a gardener, but he could not name any of them.