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Cuban woman arrested in Florida in connection with 2022 shipwreck that left 16 dead

In November 2022, a migrant smuggling case resulted in the tragic death of 16 people, four of whom were found drowned after a boat sank off the coast of Cuba

Bote de migrantes en playa de Florida (imagen de referencia) | EFE

June 23, 2024 10:36am

Updated: June 24, 2024 9:54am

A Cuban resident in Florida was arrested in connection with an alleged trafficking attempt that resulted in the death of 16 people, four of whom were found drowned after the sinking of a boat off the coast of Cuba in November 2022, according to a statement released by the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Florida.

Yaquelin Domínguez Nieves, 25, and a resident of Sebring, faces 10 charges related to illegal immigration and the “fatal” result of the operation, federal prosecutors said in the statement. The shipwreck occurred 30 miles from Cuba – not even halfway – while the boat was heading south to Florida.

If the court finds her guilty of facilitating the entry of aliens into the U.S. “resulting in death,” the woman will face a maximum penalty of life in prison or a death sentence.

The Coast Guard Investigation Service (CGIS), which reconstructed the events based on the testimony of a survivor, assured that the boat “was overloaded and did not contain a single life jacket.”

Federal prosecutors did not clarify the role or degree of involvement of Domínguez Nieves in the operation that she “facilitated,” but it does specify that the clues from the shipwreck led the agents of the Investigation Service to her home, in Sebring, where she was arrested.

The woman was seeking, they allege, illicit “commercial enrichment” through human trafficking and they describe her actions as “atrocious.”

said, “These human trafficking operations put human lives at risk in pursuit of financial gain. Smugglers exploit migrants' hopes for a better life, putting them in extreme danger. "We will continue to work with our allies to prosecute those who perpetuate these illegal practices and protect vulnerable migrants."

“Human smuggling ventures put people’s lives at risk for the sake of profit,” said Markenzy Lapointe, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida. “Human smugglers prey on the migrants’ hopes for a better life. Tragically, the smugglers’ exploits pose a grave danger to migrants. The U.S. Attorney’s Office will continue to work with our partners to prosecute those who carry out illicit human smuggling operations to protect vulnerable migrants and save lives.”

The U.S. Coast Guard, which effectuated the arrest said the charges were evidence that the bureau is committed to helping those under duress.

"The Coast Guard Investigative Service is committed to safeguarding those who are vulnerable and at risk of exploitation. The indictment and arrest of Yaqulelin Dominguez-Nieves underscore our unwavering dedication to protecting individuals from the dangers of illegal smuggling operations,” said Special Agent in Charge Matthew J. Margelot of the Coast Guard Investigative Service(CGIS) Southeast Field Office. 

“These criminal activities not only violate federal law but also endanger human lives. We remain steadfast in our mission to bring those who perpetrate such heinous acts to justice and ensure the safety and security of our maritime borders."

Fast-File Reporter

Marielbis Rojas

Marielbis Rojas is a Venezuelan journalist and communications professional with a degree in Social Communication from UCAB. She is a news reporter for ADN America.