• Mike Hand

Luxury yachts caught smuggling Chinese immigrants into Florida, federal investigators say

Forty Chinese immigrants were charged thousands of dollars to be smuggled in yachts from the Bahamas into Florida, according to federal court documents that allege a scheme involving luxury liners ferrying passengers into the country without legal permission to enter the US.

Three men are facing human smuggling charges outlined in federal indictments filed this month.

Rocco Oppedisano is accused of piloting a 63-foot Sunseeker yacht named INXS Finally with 14 Chinese passengers and one Bahamian aboard during a December voyage, according to a federal indictment filed on 7 January, according to the Miami Herald.

In separate cases, the US Coast Guard stopped two ships from entering South Florida and arrested crew members who are accused of bringing 26 Chinese passengers and one Bahamian passenger aboard their ships, which contained more than $300,000 in cash.

Federal authorities discovered $118,000 behind one yacht's wall panelling in the master bedroom, according to court documents. That ship's captain, James Bradford, allegedly told investigators that he didn't check whether his passengers had travel documents that granted them legal permission to enter the US.

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