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Two men arrested after attempting to travel to Cuba and return to Florida with immigrants

Rios Castillo confessed he planned to travel to the island to pick up immigrants

September 13, 2022 10:24am

Updated: September 13, 2022 2:58pm

Authorities arrested two men on Monday at a boat ramp in Marathon, accused of attempting to travel to Cuba and return to South Florida with migrants.

Victor Manuel Rios Castillo, 29, of West Palm Beach, is being prosecuted on one count of attempted human smuggling; while Jorge Luis Fernandez Rodriguez, 53, of Tampa, is charged with illegally transporting fuel.

At 5 p.m. officers were notified that a truck towing a boat was blocking southbound traffic near Mile Marker 56, Monroe County Sheriff's Office spokesman Adam Linhardt reported.

Upon arrival, police found the truck and trailer on a boat ramp in Quay.

"The trailer had a flat tire and another damaged tire. The cabin-style cruiser had three 55-gallon fuel drums on board, as well as a fuel transfer pump, satellite phone, a GPS with waypoints to Cuba, several gallons of marine oil, a large quantity of water and soft drinks, and numerous life jackets," Linhardt added.

Rios Castillo confessed that he planned to travel to the island to pick up immigrants and Fernandez Rodriguez acknowledged that he was aware of the fuel barrels inside the boat he was towing.

The U.S. Border Patrol and the Office of Homeland Security Investigations (ICE) also responded to the incident.

The nationality of those charged is unknown at this time.

From October 1, 2021 to the present, U.S. Coast Guard crews have intercepted 5456 Cubans, a six-year high.

Just the previous weekend U.S. Border Patrol agents intercepted 78 Cuban rafters after making landfall in Florida.

In addition, some 61 migrants have lost their lives at sea so far in 2022, U.S. Coast Guard Rear Admiral Brendan McPherson reported this month.