Florida Keys

They hijacked a boat, stabbed the captain to smuggle Brazilians into the U.S. Now they're in prison

Three men from the Republic of Georgia hijacked a charter boat from the Bahamas, stabbed the captain and pushed him overboard, while smuggling two Brazilian men into South Florida in September 2016, according to federal court documents.

A federal judge sentenced the Georgians to prison Thursday. Giorgi Abrakharia and Giorgi Kokuashvili each received six years, and Mikheil Gogiashvili received three years, on one count each of smuggling a person into the U.S. for financial gain.

According to court documents, Abrakharia, 37, and Kokuashvili, 41, rode rented personal watercraft from Boynton Beach to Freeport, Bahamas, on Sept. 25, 2016.

"The jet skis were not returned," Assistant U.S. Attorney Emily Rose wrote in a Feb. 21 plea agreement. The men risked 40 years in prison if they chose to go to trial.

On Sept. 27, 2016, Abrakharia, Kokuashvili and two Brazilian men, who were not named in court documents, boarded a rented 26-foot, 1996 Regulator boat with twin 250-hp Evinrude engines. Shortly after they left Freeport, Abrakharia and Kokuashvili pushed the vessel's captain off the boat.

The captain tried to get back on the boat, but the Georgians pushed him away and stabbed him in the arm.

"The victim eventually made it back to shore," Rose wrote.

Security camera footage from the Sailfish Marina in Palm Beach County showed the four men step on the dock and walk toward the marina's parking lot at 4:18 p.m. the same day.

The men took a cab to a CVS drugstore in Boca Raton, where Gogiashvili picked them up in a black BMW sedan, according to the narrative in the plea agreement.

All four men drove to a hotel in Broward County, where they stayed until two days later, when one of the Brazilian men's brothers sent an associate with $12,000 in cash to pay the smugglers.

Gogiashvili's Bank of America records also recorded two cash payments totaling $11,000 on Sept. 28, according to court records. That money was payment from the other Brazilian's family, prosecutors said.

The case was investigated by agents with Homeland Security Investigations after the Palm Beach Sheriff's Office received a report about an abandoned vessel at the Sailfish Marina.

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