The men in January 2013
Photo Credit: BVI Platinum News
The three Puerto Rican men who were arrested at a guest house in Cane Garden Bay (CGB) were each sentenced to six months imprisonment when they re-appeared in the Magistrate's Court today, February 4.
The men are Ruben Nunez, Esteban Acevedo Tapia and Joel Hernandez.
"The defendants are here intentionally to bring a package that could have contained anything to our shores," Senior Magistrate Tamia Richards stated before handing down the sentences for the offense of illegal entry.
The Senior Magistrate pointed out that no less than 16 such cases have come before the court since 2009. She also pointed to the fact that Hernandez and Tapia announced previously that they had entered the Territory in order to bring a package for someone, who promised to pay them $5000 to do the job.
According to the Senior Magistrate, the offense was for profit, which showed a high level of planning.
Magistrate Richards stated that the defendant Nunez has been to the Territory before and therefore knew that he had entered illegally. This knowledge, she said, was implied by the defendant's act of running when he saw the officers.
The Magistrate said the sentences were not only meant to punish the offenders, but to send a strong message to others.
The men had pleaded guilty to landing in the Territory at Cane Garden Bay without the leave from an Immigration Officer on December 19 and December 20, 2012 respectively, and not guilty to the charge of failing to declare $133,110 to Her Majesty's Customs on December 20, 2012.
At the January 21 sitting, Prosecutor Sarah Benjamin informed the court that the crown intended to proceed against the men despite them pleading guilty to illegal entry. However, she had explained that the charge of failing to declare, to which they pleaded not guilty, may very well not be the charge which they will be moving ahead with.
Benjamin had noted that she was unable to indicate what the other charge may be, as investigations are continuing and police hope to gather more information.
According to the Police Information Office, with the assistance of Customs and Immigration, police searched the guest house occupied by the suspects and the cash was uncovered.