MIAMI A Bahamian man who was allegedly drunk and high on crack cocaine when his boat carrying more than a dozen migrants capsized a few miles from Miami has pleaded guilty to charges of smuggling migrants and convicted felons into the United States.
Naaman Davis, 53, was charged in October in Miami federal court and faces up to life in prison after pleading guilty on Thursday. He is due to be sentenced at the end of July.
Davis was hired to take a group of migrants from Bimini, a small Bahamian island about 50 miles east of Miami, to the United States at night in a 24-foot boat, according to court documents. The boat stalled several times en route and "during one of these times Davis smoked crack-cocaine using a pipe which he had brought with him," documents said.
At around 1 a.m. the boat began taking on water and capsized, trapping five people underneath and killing four Haitian citizens. A Coast Guard boat arrived at the scene about an hour later and pulled the remaining survivors, including Davis, from the water.
One of the rescued migrants had a 1998 conviction on charges of selling more than 200 pounds of marijuana and laundering more than $40,000 of its proceeds.
Migrants from Haiti frequently use a route via the Bahamas to reach the Florida coast in overloaded and unseaworthy vessels.
Miami is more than 600 miles from Haiti's north coast.
Eighteen Haitians lost their lives last Christmas Day near the Turks and Caicos Islands when their boat capsized as officials towed it into port.
In November, at least 30 Haitian migrants drowned when their overloaded boat capsized off the southern Bahamas.
(Editing by David Adams and Steve Orlofsky)