Feds: Crew Says Seized Arms, Ammo Was Headed For Cuba
MIAMI (AP) _ A crewman on a boat confiscated with explosives, machine guns and ammunition aboard said the arsenal was headed for Cuba, according to a federal affidavit.
The arms were found aboard the 45-foot fishing boat Angelina, which a Coast Guard vessel encountered 50 miles off the Cuban coast on Friday. The five men aboard were arrested for illegal possession of automatic weapons, authorities said.
″This is a very serious case involving military-type machine guns,″ Assistant U.S. Attorney Julia Paylor told a federal magistrate.
Among the weapons found by the Coast Guard and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agents were .30-caliber and .50-caliber Browning machine guns, and four fully automatic rifles, three of them equipped with grenade launchers.
Inspectors also found 10,000 rounds of ammunition, as well as automatic pistols and ammunition apparently for the crew’s use.
Crew member Ivan Leon Rojas said ″the Angelina was being delivered to the Bahamas, but that the firearms, ammunition and explosives were to be delivered to individuals in Camaguey, Cuba, before arriving in the Bahamas,″ firearms bureau agent Julie Torres wrote in her affidavit.
She did not give further details.
Rojas’ attorney, Gerardo Remy, denied that his client made the statement, calling the affidavit ″a mistake.″Rojas didn’t know the guns were aboard the Angelina, Remy said.
Arrested along with Rojas, 54, were Enrique J. Rabade, 37, Oscar Francisco Perez, 38, Gelasio Labori, 54, - also known as Santiago Burgos - and Guzman Cruz, 54. All are Miami-area residents.
Perez has a previous marijuana-smuggling conviction, and Rojas said he has made several similar missions, prosecutors told U.S. Magistrate Barry Garber. He ordered the two held on $100,000 bond, while the rest were granted $50,000 bond. The five men remained in custody Tuesday.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Dan Gelber said he would not comment on the nature of the boat’s mission. In the past, however, Cuban exiles have been caught trying to run guns to their island homeland, and launching hit-and-run raids across the Florida Straits.
The Miami Herald reported Monday that federal authorities tentatively linked some of the men to the Cuban Freedom Army, the armed wing of the Democratic National Unity Party.
The Cuban Freedom Army has been linked to past military ventures directed against Cuba.