An Atlanta businessman and the captain of a local charter boat are accused of attempting to smuggle 12 Chinese nationals into the U.S., The Sun-Sentinel reports. According to a criminal complaint, Robert McNeil Jr. and Capt. James Bradford were returning from the Bahamas in a 70-foot motor yacht in July when it was intercepted by a U.S. Coast Guard cutter. When asked how many people were on board and what their nationalities were, McNeil said there were 10 on board: himself, Bradford, and eight Japanese nationals—who do not require a visa to enter the U.S. A subsequent search of the boat allegedly revealed that 12 Chinese citizens were on board who had no visas. Court documents also state 10 cellphones in a plastic bag were found on the yacht. “Smugglers often collect cellphones from migrants until they are paid,” the document states.
Before being taken into custody, McNeil—whose business website reportedly lists a Beijing branch—allegedly said he “worked with the underground railroad and would never do anything wrong.” His attorney declined to comment, and Bradford's attorney has not yet made public comment. Both McNeil and Bradford are charged with one count of conspiracy, 12 counts of encouraging and inducing aliens to enter the United States, and 12 counts of bringing aliens into the country for commercial or personal gains.