October sentencing for captain charged with human smuggling

A Naples boat captain caught by federal agents in March with 11 illegally-entered immigrants on board his disabled vessel in Tavernier Creek is scheduled to be sentenced in October.

Richard Mork, 62, agreed to plead guilty in June to four human smuggling counts in exchange for federal prosecutors agreeing to dropping six other counts on which a grand jury charged him March 24. U.S. District Court Judge James Lawrence King could sentence Mork to up to 30 years in prison during his scheduled 9 a.m. Oct. 10 hearing at the federal courthouse in Key West.

Would he have maintained his innocence and faced a jury trial, he was looking at a maximum 60 years.

A U.S. Customs and Border Protection Air and Marine Operations boat crew came upon Mork’s 33-foot Trojan inboard the afternoon of March 12 about two nautical miles offshore of Tavernier. The vessel had run out of fuel. As agents boarded the boat, they saw two men on personal watercraft approaching, each carrying two gasoline cans.

The Customs agents found six Jamaicans, four Haitians and a Bahamian below deck of Mork’s vessel.

Except for Mork, none of the other people, including two unaccompanied children, were legally allowed in the United States, a fact agents say Mork knew, according to documents filed in U.S. District Court. One of Mork’s passengers said he paid an intermediary $5,000 for passage to the United States, according to court documents.

Mork was originally scheduled to be sentenced on Aug. 21, but King granted his attorney Douglas Malloy’s motion for a continuance. Malloy wrote in the motion that he wanted more time to review Mork’s recently obtained medical records.

Malloy also wrote that he wanted to review “certain financial records” Mork told him about but has not seen that Mork “believes are relevant, but not exculpatory, for the court’s consideration of his boat operations and activities” around the time of the arrest. The records in question could be “in various places” in the United States and in Bimini, Malloy wrote in the motion.

Indicted with Mork on March 24 were Carlington Bingham, O’Neil Anthony Harris and George Alexander Wright. All three men, who are Jamaican nationals, were charged with illegally entering the country after having already been deported. Bingham and Harris are scheduled to be sentenced the same day as Mork, Oct. 10.

Wright was sentenced to 10 months in prison in June.

David Goodhue: 305-440-3204