A local Abaco man was charged last week in a Florida court with conspiracy to import five kilograms or more of a substance containing a detectable amount of cocaine hydrochloride.
Clifton Bootle of Abaco, along with Jason Simons and Brittany Norris were named in a court filing to support the “probable cause” for their arrest stating that the “DEA and HSI are currently conducting an investigation of the illegal drug importation and human trafficking activities engaged in by Simons, Norris and Bootle”.
Simons’ story involved persons in The Bahamas who he claimed had several hundred kilograms of cocaine for transportation. Grand Bahama, especially West End, was featured in the statement, which was filed this week in the US District Court of Southern Florida.
Matthew L Davis, a special agent with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) said that on September 7 last year agents established a confidential source that identified Simons as a smuggler of cocaine and illegal migrants from the Bahamas into the United States.
Over the course of several months, he said, “several recorded telephone conversations regarding smuggling activities between the CS (confidential source) and Simons were conducted.
On December 1, 2016, the CS met with Simons to discuss the possibility of the CS providing Simons access to a vessel that Simons could use to transport a large quantity of cocaine from the Bahamas into South Florida. On December 14, 2016 the CS introduced, via cellphone, a DEA agent acting in an undercover capacity (UC) to Simons. Over the course of the next several weeks, said the statement, the UC and Simons spoke via voice and text messages regarding working together to import a large quantity of cocaine from the Bahamas to the United States via a sports fishing vessel under the command of the UC.
On January 12, 2016, the UC met with Simons at Bokamper’s Restaurant in Fort Lauderdale, to organise the transportation of a load of cocaine from an unspecified island in the Bahamas to the United States. During the meeting, the UC and Simons agreed that the UC would provide Simons access to a sport fishing vessel in the Bahamas piloted by the UC and the UC’s boat crew which Simons would then load kilograms of cocaine with the intention of smuggling the cocaine into Palm Beach County, Florida, within the Southern District of Florida. The UC and Simons agreed that once the marine forecast cleared up, the UC and Simons would attempt to smuggle the load of cocaine. Simons told the UC the cocaine would be available in the West End area of Grand Bahama, according to the court document.
Simons informed the UC that he had contacts with “people” in the Bahamas that had several hundred kilograms of cocaine that had to be transported to the US. The UC negotiated 10 per cent of the cocaine load as payment for the transportation. Simons agreed that the cocaine source of supply was willing to pay 10 per cent of the load for transportation fees.
The eight-page statement filed in the court told of the UC meeting Simons at a marina in West End last week – January 18 – when the UC was asked to bring some coolers in which to take the cocaine.
Simons told the UC that the hotel room on the first floor in which the cocaine was locked overlooked the boat dock. Two coolers and five large black backpacks filled with bricks of cocaine were loaded on the boat, according to the court document.
At about 2:30pm the same day, at a pre-determined location, CBP Marine units with DEA and HSI agents intercepted the vessel, located the cocaine, and detained Simons for questioning.
After confiscating the drugs law enforcement conducted a controlled delivery of the seized cocaine.
They then went to the Towne Place Suites Hotel, in Fort Lauderdale where they contacted the intended recipient of the cocaine. The recipient agreed to take possession of the cocaine, agreeing to meet the cooperating defendant at their vehicle outside the hotel. It was then that Clifton Bootle, of the Bahamas, arrived at the law enforcement vehicle. Bootle was shown the cocaine in the back seat of the pickup truck. He was then arrested. Bootle, who had rented the hotel room, allowed the agents to enter the room where they met another Bahamian, who was not taken into custody.
During the post-Miranda interview, the court’s affidavit said that Bootle indicated that the person in the Bahamas sent over 104 pieces and that Jason’s cut was to be 10 “pieces.”
Based on the statements in the document, it was submitted to the court that Jason Simons, Brittany Norris, and Clifton Bootle had committed the criminal offence of conspiracy to import a controlled substance – five kilograms of cocaine – into the United States for which they were now to stand trial.