U.S. charges dismissed in ‘guns in fridge’ case

American prosecutors have dismissed criminal indictments against three Caymanian men, who authorities had alleged were involved in a 2010-2011 gun smuggling operation between south Florida and Grand Cayman, because of a lack of available evidence, court records released this month show.

Orders of dismissal were issued July 10 for Marvin Matthew Watson, Robert Terry and Kyle Santamaria by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida.

“The United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida hereby dismisses without prejudice the indictment against the above named defendant[s] because the witnesses are no longer available,” the court records state.

None of the three men who were charged in 2011-2012 in connection with the Florida-to-Cayman gun smuggling probe ever went to the U.S. to face the charges.

The Royal Cayman Islands Police Service has previously confirmed its belief American authorities never sent an extradition request for two of the suspects, Mr. Watson and Mr. Santamaria, and the office of the director of public prosecutions in Cayman does not comment on extradition requests.

Mr. Terry, Mr. Watson and Mr. Santamaria were charged along with Mikkyle Brandon Leslie, Alexander Michael Henry (referred to in some records as Michael Alexander Henry) and Tito Bonilla during a period between late 2011 and early 2012. Mr. Bonilla pleaded guilty to one count of conspiring to transport firearms and was deported from the U.S. All charges against Mr. Henry were eventually dropped.

Mr. Leslie pleaded guilty in February 2013 to one of seven counts in a U.S. federal court indictment. He was sentenced in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, to 46 months in prison, with an additional three-year period of supervised release.

According to count one of the federal indictment, Mr. Leslie “did knowingly and willfully combine, conspire, confederate and agree with persons known and unknown … to knowingly and willfully 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 Mr. Leslie.

Mr. Terry was sentenced in the Cayman Islands on a conviction relating to possession of a weapon that U.S. authorities believed to be part of the Florida-Cayman gun smuggling and which was used to fire shots at the home of former Cayman Islands Chief Magistrate Margaret Ramsey-Hale in 2010, court records state.

Although some details of the Florida-Cayman gun smuggling operation were reported by the Cayman Compass as early as 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 Mr. Leslie, named roughly a dozen other individuals who U.S. authorities believed played some role in the gun smuggling operation. The affidavit does not amount to criminal charges against those named individuals. Several individuals named in the document have never been charged in either the U.S. or the Cayman Islands.

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