Man Sentenced in Ft. Pierce to over 12 Years in Prison for Smuggling Migrants by Sea ahead of Hurricane

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Hurricane Florence over the Atlantics close to the US coast, viewed from the space station. Gaping eye of a category 4 hurricane. Elements of this image furnished by NASA.

MIAMI, FLORIDA  – Yesterday, a federal judge in Ft. Pierce sentenced a Bahamian man to 151 months in prison for trying to smuggle migrants into the United States on a poorly-equipped and overloaded boat while the area was under a hurricane warning.

According to court documents, on the night of July 30, 2020, Vonne Rolle, 29, of Coopers Town, Bahamas, attempted to pilot a vessel from Freeport, Bahamas, to the St. Lucie Inlet, with twelve migrants on board. At the time, the area was under a hurricane warning due to the approaching storm, Isaias. The vessel, which was overloaded and not equipped with food, water, or life jackets, broke down prior to arriving in Florida.  It drifted until a boater discovered it the next day. The United States Coast Guard rescued Rolle and the other migrants, including a minor, 26 miles off the coast of Stuart, Florida.  Rolle was arrested and charged.  On December 11, 2020, Rolle pled guilty to migrant smuggling.

Rolle was convicted and sentenced in 2016 on a separate alien smuggling charge investigated by HSI in Fort Pierce, Florida.  Rolle was previously deported from the U.S. in April 2018.

Ariana Fajardo Orshan, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, and Anthony Salisbury, Special Agent in Charge, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), Miami Field Office, made the announcement.


HSI Miami investigated this case, with assistance from the U.S. Coast Guard and U.S. Border Patrol. Assistant U.S. Attorney Justin Hoover is prosecuting the case.

You may find related court documents and information on the website of the District Court for the Southern District of Florida at www.flsd.uscourts.gov or on http://pacer.flsd.uscourts.gov, under case number 20-14029-CR-JEM.

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