Court records show 44-year-old Michael Stapleton was extradited to the United States last year and sentenced on July 11 to 21 years and 10 months.
A federal jury in South Florida found him guilty of 47 counts related to a people-smuggling scheme.
Prosecutors say Stapleton was the head of a smuggling organization and coordinated the smuggling of illegal immigrants to the United States from around the world through Freeport, Bahamas.
Stapleton arranged for the illegal immigrants to be hidden in stash houses, hired smuggling captains, and arranged for boats to make the crossing from the Bahamas to the United States, according to court documents.
Witnesses testified that Stapleton used the vulnerability of the illegal immigrants to exploit them by demanding more money from them after they were in his power, keeping them in deplorable conditions, mistreating them and sending them out in unsafe boats.
Testimony at trial showed that in one smuggling venture, the illegal immigrants were pushed overboard in rough seas far from the beach, despite some of them not being able to swim.
“These smuggling organizations place no value on human life and are constantly putting people’s lives at risks. Stapleton’s actions clearly proved that,” said Anthony Salisbury, Special Agent in Charge of HSI Miami.
“Our goal is to identify, disrupt and dismantle the type of organization that Stapleton headed and we are committed to doing everything within our powers to put these individuals behind bars,” the agent continued.
Mexican Officials Find 51 Illegal Immigrants in Truck Using Giant X-ray
Mexican officials using a large X-ray scanner at a checkpoint in the central state of Zacatecas found 51 Central American illegal immigrants in hidden compartments inside a truck.
Footage of the X-ray shows a ghost-like truck filled with the brightened silhouettes of the illegal immigrants, some sitting, others lying down along two levels in the crowded compartments.
X-ray by Mexican border police shows migrant stowaways in a truck ????
Mexican authorities scanned the vehicle and moved the migrants into processing facilities.
— Sky News (@SkyNews) July 8, 2019
The illegal immigrants from Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Ecuador, 21 of whom were minors, are now in the custody of the country’s National Migration Institute (INM), government officials said in a statement late on July 7.
The illegal immigrants will be returned to their home countries, the statement said.
By Rebekah F. Ward
The Associated Press and NTD staff contributed to this report.