Two federally indicted in migrant deaths, case set for Key West

Federal prosecutors are offering few details about a 2008 migrant smuggling operation that left five people dead at sea.

Last week, a grand jury indicted two men, Suriel Quintana-Izquierdo and Ariel Salene-Torres, in connection with the case.

They face one count each of conspiracy to encourage and induce aliens to enter the United States resulting in death and placing in jeopardy the life of another, and 16 counts each of encouraging and inducing aliens to enter the U.S. resulting in death and placing in jeopardy the life of another.

If convicted, Izquierdo and Torres could receive the death penalty or life in prison.

The indictment, filed Friday in the Key West office of U.S. District Court, states that Izquierdo and Torres recruited 18 migrants to make the journey to the United States from a country not named in the indictment.

Sometime during the trip, which happened between April 4, 2008, and April 10, 2008, five of the 18 people died. The dead are not named in the indictment. Only their initials are listed.

A second part of the indictment was filed but it is sealed.

Sarah Schall, a U.S. Attorney's Office spokeswoman, said no other information about the case can be released for now. 

It's not clear if this case is related to a grisly discovery over a two-day period in August 2008 when four badly decomposed bodies were found floating off various locations of the Upper Key.

The first body was found on Aug. 21 about a mile off the Channel Five Bridge, at mile marker 71. The next day, two bodies were found near Tavernier, while the last was found on Elbow Reef off Key Largo. Other than decomposition, the bodies were also scavenged by sharks.

In the nearly seven years since the bodies were found, no official explanation has been released about from where they originated. A U.S. Coast Guard search at the time found no overturned boat at sea. And although two rafts washed up onshore in late August that year, no definitive connection to the bodies was made.