• Prosecutors seek up to six months’ jail time
• Argue custody justified by ‘handsome profits’
• Yet ‘co-operation with law enforcement’ noted
By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
Island Luck’s co-founder allegedly earned up to $300,000 from human trafficking, US federal prosecutors have asserted, as they urged a New York judge to jail him for up to six months.
Jordan Estes, an assistant US attorney, in an October 8, 2021, letter to Judge Denise Cote, argued that Adrian Fox’s involvement in a more than decade-old scheme to smuggle illegal Chinese into Florida “warrants” a minor custodial sentence because he “profited handsomely” from his involvement.
Alleging that Mr Fox had played an active role in the trafficking of 100 Chinese nationals, the letter nevertheless acknowledged the Island Luck co-founder’s philanthropic activities in depressed Bahamian communities as well as “his efforts to cooperate with law enforcement” although no details were provided in relation to the latter.
Ms Estes, writing ahead of Mr Fox’s October 15 sentencing by Judge Cote, acknowledged that the Bahamian national was due to plead guilty “to aiding and abetting the grossly negligent operation of a vessel” following a plea bargain with US federal prosecutors that saw all charges relating to the more serious human smuggling offences dropped.
Detailing the background to the case, she wrote: “This case stems from an investigation into alien smuggling that began in or around 2009. Around that time, a boat captain (CW-1 or co-operating witness one) began co-operating with law enforcement regarding his involvement in an alien smuggling organisation that specialised in smuggling Chinese nationals into the US through Haiti, the Dominican Republic and The Bahamas.
“At times, the Chinese nationals were smuggled in hazardous conditions, including overcrowded boats, where there would be more aliens onboard than lifejackets. In addition, the Chinese nationals would be exposed to the elements while they were being transported by boat and would go without food or water for extended periods of time.”
Providing further details on the operation, Ms Estes wrote: “A second co-operating witness (CW-2) provided information on the alien smuggling organisation’s contacts in The Bahamas. According to CW-2, Fox’s co-defendant, Mario Bowe, was responsible for chartering flights to fly Chinese nationals from Haiti to The Bahamas; arranging for safe houses to house aliens in The Bahamas while they awaited further transportation; and contacting boat captains such as CW-1 to take the aliens from the Bahamas to Florida.”
Mr Bowe, son of Felix ‘Mailman’ Bowe, a close confidante of the late Sir Lynden Pindling, ultimately pled guilty in September 2010 to his role in the scheme and was sentenced to 33 months in prison in early 2011. He is understood to have been released and has long returned to The Bahamas.
But, detailing Mr Fox’s role, Ms Estes asserted: “In or about 2005, when the defendant was working at a restaurant, he was asked by his supervisor to help transport Chinese nationals from The Bahamas to Miami.
“The defendant agreed and later connected with CW-1 to transport the Chinese nationals. The defendant later cut out his restaurant supervisor and began working with others, including Bowe, as part of the alien smuggling operation.
“From approximately 2005 to 2008, the defendant was involved in smuggling approximately 100 individuals, and he made approximately $200,000 to $300,000 from the scheme. In or about 2008, the defendant voluntarily withdrew from the conspiracy after he was almost caught by the Bahamian police.”
Neither the restaurant nor the supervisor were identified in the letter, although both are almost certainly Bahamian. Meanwhile, justifying the US Justice Department’s call for Mr Fox to serve a short-term custodial sentence, Ms Estes argued: “The Government respectfully submits that the court should impose a sentence within the stipulated guidelines range of zero to six months’ imprisonment.
“Fox was involved in an alien smuggling operation for financial gain. And this was not a one-time offense. Rather, over the course of three years, the defendant was involved in repeated violations of immigration law by assisting in the smuggling of approximately 100 individuals. For his involvement in the scheme, Fox profited handsomely, making hundreds of thousands of dollars.”
Arguing that a custodial sentence would help deter other human traffickers, the assistant US attorney added: “Alien smuggling presents tangible border integrity and security risks, and imposing a guidelines sentence will deter others tempted to engage in such border corruption.
“Nonetheless, the Government agrees that the court should consider the defendant’s withdrawal from the conspiracy, his efforts to cooperate with law enforcement, and the philanthropy he has engaged in since committing this offense.”
The US government’s push for a short-term custodial sentence is, of course, much different from the probation, fine and 100 hours of community service in The Bahamas punishment that Mr Fox and his attorneys have urged Judge Cote to impose when he appears before her on Friday in a New York courtroom for sentencing.
Mr Fox, in legal papers obtained by Tribune Business, has informed the court that he will be accompanied by ten “spectators” or supporters who will be present at his sentencing, although these persons were not identified.
This newspaper triggered a political firestorm last week when it revealed that the Prime Minister and two of his Cabinet ministers, just over a month before they were elected to office, had written character testimonies on Mr Fox’s behalf to Judge Cote to support his bid for the lighter sentence.
The opposition Free National Movement (FNM), fresh from losing the general election, immediately blasted Philip Davis’ support for Mr Fox as “astonishing and reprehensible”. The Prime Minister, though, defended his actions by saying he wrote in the capacity of a long-time attorney and friend of Mr Fox, not as a prime minister or on behalf of the Government.
References for Mr Fox were also supplied by other Cabinet ministers, such as Jomo Campbell, minister of state for legal affairs, and Alfred Sears, minister of works, both of whom have also acted for him and his companies in a legal capacity.
Former ministers Shane Gibson and Leslie Miller also vouched for him. Leslia Miller-Brice, Seabreeze MP-elect, and her husband Leander Brice who operates the AsureWin web shop chain and is the Island Luck co-founder’s nephew, also submitted character references.
Mr Fox, meanwhile, was forced to deny that the character references from the Prime Minister and other members of the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) were supplied in return for donations made in the recent general election campaign. He added that he has also donated to members of the Free National Movement (FNM), although did not say when.