A 72-year-old man admitted on Friday in Magistrates’ Court to smuggling 21 migrants into the territory last April.

Carwill Potter, a Virgin Islands native, also pleaded guilty to the charge of illegal entry.

The second defendant in the case, Luc Eloi from Haiti, is accused of assisting Mr. Potter in the smuggling operation.

He pleaded not guilty to illegal entry, smuggling migrants and possession of the proceeds of criminal conduct when he first appeared in court last July.

During that appearance, Mr. Eloi told Senior Magistrate Tamia Richards that he was merely another migrant, not a ringleader of the plan.

“I’m not guilty because I was a passenger just like everyone else on the boat,” he said through a translator.

 

Migrants found on VG

Law enforcement officers discovered and detained a group of migrants at Biras Creek in Virgin Gorda on April 10, 2017, Police Information Officer Diane Drayton said at the time.

The next month, Chief Immigration Officer Geraldine Ritter-Freeman confirmed to the press that 27 migrants in total had been detained. The group included six women and five minors, she said, and 23 of them had already been repatriated by late May.

Most of the individuals were from Haiti and a few hailed from Cuba, Sri Lanka, the Dominican Republic and India, according to the CIO.

At the time, one of the remaining migrants was in the process of being repatriated and three were being held for investigation, Ms. Ritter-Freeman reported.

Mr. Eloi first appeared in Magistrates’ Court on July 14. The defendant, who had been found carrying $1,400 in cash, reportedly told police that he was picked up in St. Maarten and transported to the territory.

“If I work for money I don’t see how it can be criminal conduct,” he said in court.

But during an “identification parade” held by police, some of the migrants named Mr. Eloi as one of the men who transported them to the territory, the court heard.

Those migrants allegedly described a “Mr. Potter” as the second man involved.

On Aug. 12, Anguillan authorities held and deported Carwill Potter, the court heard on Friday. Some migrants also positively identified Mr. Potter during an identification lineup, according to prosecutors.

He was subsequently charged with smuggling and illegal entry.

The 72-year-old will be sentenced on April 20, and Mr. Eloi will go to trial.


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