Mexican Boat Captain Gets Punished For Human Smuggling Into San Clemente
Come aboard. We're expecting you!
It's safe to say that the cabin cruiser driven by Jesus Quinones-Chavez in September 2012 was not The Love Boat.
Loaded with eight other Mexicans who boarded the boat in Puerto Nuevo, Baja California after agreeing to pay between $7,000 and $12,500 each, Quinones-Chavez aimed to illegally smuggle the foreign nationals into Newport Beach.
But the occupants--some of whom are felons--became stranded at sea when the boat ran out of fuel as well as food and water.
Quinones-Chavez threatened to shoot one person who suggested they contact the U.S. Coast Guard to be rescued.
"Whomever calls the police, I will fill them with bullets," he reportedly said.
Later, during a phone call, he was overheard saying that if a certain person didn't bring them fuel he would "cut them into pieces" when he landed, according to court records.
A boat driven by three Mexican nationals from Oceanside eventually brought them fuel and the cabin cruiser made its way to the Cypress Shores area of San Clemente, where it crashed and a shocked citizen used his iPhone video to record nine soaking wet people fleeing into a gated residential neighborhood.
Border Patrol agents captured all the foreign nationals except for one who was never located and Quinones-Chavez was charged with human smuggling counts.
After a six-day trial inside Orange County's Ronald Reagan Federal Courthouse in May, a jury convicted him of nine felonies.
Prosecutors were not impressed that the defendant made a pre-conviction telephone call from jail and ordered that a key witness be threatened.
The government sought a punishment of 96 months in prison, but a court-appointed lawyer for the defendant argued that prosecutors had unfairly pictured his client as a hoodlum and asked for a punishment of no more than 60 months.
This month, U.S. District Court Judge James V. Selna ordered the 58-year-old Quinones-Chavez sent to a federal prison for a term of 78 months.
(He's appealing the convictions as unjust to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.)
When he emerges from prison, Quinones-Chavez will be deported to Mexico.