MIAMI — An American was arrested Thursday on charges of attempting to smuggle 27 Haitians into the United States, including four who drowned.
A federal grand jury returned the indictment charging Richard Bennett Barker with conspiracy to smuggle illegal aliens and 27 separate counts of alien smuggling.
Barker, 43, was arrested in West Palm Beach, the FBI said. He was scheduled to appear before a magistrate today.
The Haitians arrived Feb. 8 aboard a 31-foot vessel from Freeport, Bahamas, and were dropped in the surf off Hutchinson Island. Two of the four who drowned were children.
The 23 others were caught by police and U.S. Border Patrol agents before being released to church organizations. Most were expected to resettle with relatives in South Florida.
Barker faces a maximum of 140 years in prison and a fine of $250,000 on each count if convicted, Coffey said.