Men paid to smug­gle Cubans in­stead killed 2

Miami Herald (Sunday) - - Local & State - BY DAVID J. NEAL dneal@mi­ami­her­ald.com

For $2,900, most of it wired from Mi­ami, four Colom­bians were sup­posed to smug­gle three Cubans from Colom­bia to Panama on their way to the United States.

But one of the Cubans had his throat and stom­ach slit. And an­other was raped be­fore hav­ing her throat and stom­ach slit. A third was left for dead in the wa­ter, but sur­vived.

Three of the four Colom­bians — Car­los Emilio Ibar­guen Pala­cios, Fre­dis Va­len­cia Pala­cios and Jhoan Stiven Car­reazo Asprilla — now might spend the rest of their lives in fed­eral prison. The fourth, Jorge Fer­nando Rivera Weir, is a fugi­tive.

Each Colom­bian man pleaded guilty to one count of con­spir­acy to en­cour­age and in­duce aliens to come to the United States re­sult­ing in death, and three counts of en­cour­ag­ing and in­duc­ing aliens to come to the United States re­sult­ing in death and plac­ing in jeop­ardy the lives of any per­son.

They made their pleas in U.S. District Court in the South­ern District of Florida be­fore Judge Jose E. Martinez. He will sen­tence Va­len­cia Pala­cios on Nov. 28 and Ibar­guen Pala­cios and Car­reazo Asprilla on Jan. 4.

Fri­day’s “guilty plea by Ibar­guen Pala­cios brings to jus­tice an­other de­fen­dant in one of the most hor­rific cases in­ves­ti­gated by HSI Mi­ami,” said Home­land Se­cu­rity In­ves­ti­ga­tions Spe­cial Agent in Charge Selby. “This is ex­actly what we are con­stantly warn­ing the pub­lic of when it comes to the dan­gers of hu­man smug­gling.

“Al­though th­ese pleas will not re­turn the vic­tims to their loved ones,” he said, “it does bring jus­tice for their friends and fam­ily.”

Ac­cord­ing to Ibar­guen Pala­cios’ ad­mis­sion of facts, two Cubans re­ferred to in court doc­u­ments as “E.M.A.” and “L.S.C” wanted to get from Cuba to the United States to live.

So, they flew from Cuba to Guyana, then made it to Colom­bia in Au­gust 2016.

While they were in a Cu­cuta, Colom­bia, ho­tel, Rivera Weir in­tro­duced him­self and of­fered to take them to the Pana­ma­nian bor­der.

He showed them Face­book pho­tos of peo­ple he had smug­gled. E.M.A., a woman, and L.S.C., a man, knew some of the peo­ple in the pic­tures from Cuba.

One of E.M.A.’s Mi­ami rel­a­tives wired $500 to Rivera Weir. Once E.M.A. and L.S.C. were driven 620 miles to the coastal town of Turbo, Rivera Weir re­ceived an­other $1,400 from Mi­ami. E.M.A. gave Rivera Weir an­other $1,000 and sent his photo and phone num­ber to the Mi­ami rel­a­tive.

In Turbo, Rivera Weir in­tro­duced Ibar­guen Pala­cios and Va­len­cia Pala­cios, Rivera Weir’s boat driv­ers. Turbo is also where Cuban man “D.E.L.S.” joined the group. On Sept. 6, 2016, Va­len­cia Pala­cios took the three Cubans to a boat cap­tained by Ibar­guen Pala­cios. They headed out for Panama, but turned around when the boat was too leaky.

The next day, there was a dif­fer­ent boat and Car­reazo Asprilla as a first mate. Once on the wa­ter, Ibar­guen Pala­cios whipped out a knife and Car­reazo Asprilla pulled out a gun.

Ibar­guen Pala­cios’ ad­mis­sion of facts tells what hap­pened next.

“Ibar­guen Pala­cios tied the wrists of L.S.C. and D.E.L.S., then threw them over­board but pulled them up just above the wa­ter, and an­chored them with rope to the in­side of the boat,” the court doc­u­ments say. “L.S.C. re­ported that he heard Car­reazo Asprilla and Ibar­guen Pala­cios sex­u­ally as­sault E.M.A. be­fore cut­ting her throat and mur­der­ing her. L.S.C. then heard Car­reazo Asprilla and Ibar­guen Pala­cios cut D.E.L.S.’s throat, killing D.E.L.S.”

While they dealt with D.E.L.S., L.S.C. slith­ered out of the ropes and swam to hide in the man­groves. He waited out the mur­der­ers’ search at­tempts and was found the next day by area fish­er­men.

“L.S.C. di­rected the Colom­bian au­thor­i­ties to the place where the mur­ders hap­pened, and the Colom­bian au­thor­i­ties re­trieved the bod­ies of E.M.A. and D.E.L.S., which had their throats and bel­lies cut open and were tied up to­gether and sub­merged in the wa­ter,” court doc­u­ments say.

Af­ter L.S.C. iden­ti­fied all four men by photo, Colom­bian cops busted Ibar­guen Pala­cios and Car­reazo Asprilla in a Turbo ho­tel. They had some of the Cubans’ per­sonal prop­erty with them.

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