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Coast Guard intercepts 20 Cuban migrants over 2 days, arrest smuggling suspect

Miami Herald logo Miami Herald 4/14/2019 By David J. Neal, Miami Herald
© U.S. Coast Guard via Facebook

MIAMI - A gaudily painted boat and a Coast Guard airplane spotting people hiding in bushes played key roles in catching 20 Cubans trying to sneak into the United States on Thursday and Friday.

The Coast Guard also said it arrested a smuggling suspect on Thursday.

Cuban border security told Coast Guard watchstanders about a boat with passengers illegally leaving Cuba. A U.S. Customs and Border Patrol plane spotted what the Coast Guard described as a "30-foot center console" and stopped the boat High Trollers about 41 miles south of Key West.

Of the five Cuban women, five Cuban men, one child and the boat's driver, all but one man and the driver will be taken back to Cuba. Those two were taken into custody.

According to online records that access U.S. Coast Guard registry, including the Maritime Documentation Center, High Trollers is a 26.4-foot-long, 4.5-foot-deep 2001 boat.

On Friday, according to the Coast Guard, a crew on an HC-144 Ocean Sentry airplane flying over the Bahamian island Cay Sal spotted two people hiding in bushes. Crewmen from the Coast Guard Cutter Charles Sexton went on land to check and found nine Cuban citizens. Cay Sal is a geographically convenient way station between Cuba and Key West.

The Coast Guard handed the nine Cubans to Bahamas Immigration for return to Cuba.

"It's the second time this month that we've seen a case like this and its why maintain our presence in the Caribbean Sea and Florida Straits," said Lt. Patrick Leavitt, command duty officer at Coast Guard 7th District.

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