MIAMI — A Haitian man was charged with human smuggling Monday after federal authorities accused him of piloting a boat overloaded with migrants that capsized off Florida's coast, killing at least nine people, including a pregnant woman.
Jimmy Metellus, 33, is scheduled to appear in federal court Wednesday on charges of smuggling that caused the death of another person. Court records did not list an attorney for him Monday. A conviction could result in the death penalty or life in prison.
Metellus, a Haitian citizen who also has permanent U.S. resident status, was among 16 people rescued when the boat capsized early last Wednesday off Boynton Beach, about 60 miles north of Miami. Most of the survivors — 15 Haitians and one Jamaican — will be deported to their home countries.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said the dead included two men, six women and an infant. Authorities also issued a separate death certificate for the pregnant woman's 8-month-old unborn fetus.
Two women and a baby remained hospitalized Monday, and the other survivors were in immigration custody. Five people are listed as missing.
"Tragically, many have lost their lives while attempting this illegal and treacherous trip," said Anthony Mangione, chief of the ICE Office of Investigations in Miami.
According to an ICE agent, Metellus told investigators he was hired by a man known only as "Shine" to pilot the vessel from the Bahamas to the United States with about 30 undocumented migrants aboard. The affidavit says Metellus was offered $6,000 for the trip but decided instead to be paid with free passage on the boat.
It was unclear how many people were involved in the smuggling operation, and investigators are not certain what caused the boat to overturn and sink about 15 miles off Florida's coast.