Jerome Hopkins Jr, Danny Deniville, and Kaseani Skelton are expected to engage in a four-day trial beginning April 25. Skelton, however, must return to court on March 7 to report on whether he has secure legal representation.
During his court appearance yesterday, defence attorney Leroy Jones appeared on behalf of Skelton. However, Jones told the court he was not retained officially by the accused as a legal counsel.
All three of the accused men had appeared in court yesterday where they pleaded not guilty to the charges laid against them. Hopkins Jr, currently on bail, was charged with harbouring illegal immigrants and assisting with illegal entry. The two other accused, Deniville and Skelton, are also charged with that offence in addition to illegal entry.
The Magistrate Court was also informed by the prosecution that Deniville has an additional charge of obtaining property by deception. This charge is indictable and may be transferred to the High Court.
The court was told that Deniville and Skelton assisted with the illegal entry of 28 persons between November 20-23, 2021. It was said the immigrants had paid for passage from St Maarten to St John in the US Virgin Islands.
However, the four-hour journey promised turned into 18 hours after the boat developed mechanical issues. The court heard the boat captain contacted Deniville and Skelton for assistance. The 28 persons were then allegedly transported to the residence of Hopkins Jr in Baughers Bay.
The prosecution alleged that the immigrants were charged an additional $1,000 for the journey from BVI to St John and only the Brazilian nationals were able to pay. Hence, they were transported to St John the following day.
The court was further told Hopkins Jr made several visits to his property and charged $100 per person for each night of occupancy. It was also alleged that the three accused colluded to get additional money from the remaining immigrants.
The prosecution alleged Deniville collected cash via Western Union on behalf of the immigrants. Skelton also handed over money collected from the immigrants to Hopkins Jr, according to the prosecution.
The prosecution noted there was a growing concern between the three men of some of the immigrant’s inability to pay for the cost of housing and the money for the trip to St John.
The court was also informed that Hopkins Jr had reported to the police that he rented his apartment to two Spanish men, and he discovered they had Haitian nationals staying there illegally.
When the police conducted a raid on the apartment, the court was told they caught 14 immigrants and three had escaped. There were seven Venezuelans, six Haitians and one Peruvian found at the premises in Baughers Bay.