Man Charged With Assault After Using Speedboat Filled With Migrants To Ram U.S. Customs Vessel

Boat driver and 14 other illegal migrants detained after collision off South Florida

The U.S. Customs Service announced that Wisley Charles was charged today with assaulting a federal officer after using a speedboat, which was occupied by 14 other illegal migrants, to ram a pursuing U.S. Customs vessel off South Florida Wednesday evening.

On July 3, at approximately 10:50 PM, a U.S. Customs Service C-12M aircraft on a routine marine patrol detected a 25-foot speedboat traveling with its lights out roughly 30 nautical miles east of South Florida. The vessel was traveling in a westerly direction at 25 to 30 knots. The information about the boat was passed to three Customs vessels that were on patrol.

Approximately six miles off Dania Beach, a marked U.S. Customs vessel from the West Palm Beach Marine Unit approached the speedboat. The speedboat turned around and began fleeing back to the Bahamas. The Customs vessel gave chase, maintaining a position about 100 feet alongside the moving speedboat, with its police lights energized. Mr. Charles, the operator of the speedboat, suddenly turned his boat towards the Customs vessel and accelerated in an effort to intentionally ram the Customs vessel. Just prior to impact, Charles jumped overboard. The speedboat, filled with migrants, then collided with the Customs vessel.

Several illegal migrants, including an infant, were injured in the collision. A senior Customs Marine Enforcement Officer also sustained injuries in the crash. The Customs vessel sustained damage, but was operable. Two Customs vessels from the Miami and Fort Lauderdale Marine Units arrived on the scene shortly after the collision. Charles was retrieved from the water.

The crew of the damaged Customs vessel gathered six of the injured migrants and proceeded immediately to the Fort Lauderdale U.S. Coast Guard base to seek medical attention. The two other Customs vessels subsequently transported the remaining illegal migrants to the same Coast Guard base. The injured Customs officer and migrants were treated at a local hospital.

Earlier today, Charles was charged in the Southern District of Florida with assaulting a U.S. Customs officer in connection with the crash. He made his initial appearance today before U.S. Magistrate Judge Barry Seltzer. Charles was ordered held without bond. The illegal migrants, who come from Haiti, Guyana, and Jamaica, are being turned over to the Immigration and Naturalization Service. Two injured migrants remain at the hospital and are in stable condition.

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