NEWS: 5 more articles re: US smuggling bust

Jyothi Kanics---Global Survival Network (jkanics@igc.apc.org)
Mon, 23 Nov 1998 15:05:25 -0500 (EST)

1) Feds Break Alien Smuggling Ring
Saturday November 21 1:56 AM ET
By MICHELLE MITTELSTADT Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) - Federal officials are jubilant about crushing a
record-large smuggling
operation responsible for bringing more than 12,000 Indians and other
foreigners into the United
States, but they say the battle to crack down on alien trafficking is far
from over.

``We fully recognize that other criminal networks continue to smuggle aliens
into this country, and
they will continue to do so as long as it remains such a lucrative
business,'' Immigration and
Naturalization Service Commissioner Doris Meissner said Friday.

The smuggling ring, which charged $20,000 or more per person, took in nearly
$220 million over
three years, authorities estimated.

Meissner's comments came as she and Attorney General Janet Reno announced
that authorities
had dismantled the largest illegal alien operation ever uncovered in the
United States.

``Let all those who flout the nation's immigration laws be warned: We plan
to take swift and
decisive action against smuggling whenever we discover it,'' Reno said at a
news conference with
Meissner.

Twenty-one people have been arrested in the United States, Puerto Rico and
the Bahamas as part
of ``Operation Seek and Keep,'' a yearlong smuggling and money-laundering
investigation led by
the INS. A federal grand jury in Dallas charged 31 people in three
indictments containing 58
immigration and money-laundering counts.

The organization's alleged ringleader, Nick Diaz, also known as Nitin
Shettie, was arrested by INS
officials in the Bahamas last week and is in custody in Miami. A second
alleged leader, Navtej Pall
Singh Sandu, was arrested in Puerto Rico. A third suspect, Niranjan Maan
Singh, was being
sought and was believed to be in India.

Officials said the organization, a loose confederation of three separate
cartels, specialized in
smuggling Indian nationals through Moscow to Cuba, where they were sent to
Ecuador, the
Bahamas or Mexico before being smuggled into Texas, Florida and other U.S.
points by land, sea
or air. The ring also allegedly smuggled aliens from Afghanistan, Pakistan
and Syria.

``As this operation demonstrates very clearly, many immigrants entering the
country illegally are no
longer doing so on their own or as part of small, makeshift groups,''
Meissner said. ``Instead, they
are being smuggled in by well-organized, well-financed international
criminal networks.''

The illegal immigrants, some of whom were in transit for years, were
detained in secret houses in
New Jersey, Florida and elsewhere until their families or prospective
employers paid their
smuggling fees. Aliens whose smuggling fees were paid by an employer worked
for that employer
until the debt was paid off, officials said.

Officials would not name the employers or specify their industries.

But U.S. Attorney Paul Coggins of the Northern District of Texas, where the
investigation began,
said numerous worksite enforcement actions will result. ``We have
approximately 1,000 leads
across this country in connection with the unscrupulous businesses that
placed orders for these
illegal aliens,'' he said.

While most of the smuggled aliens remained on the East Coast, the INS said
its investigation
identified aliens or employers in 38 states. Some of the aliens are being
held as material witnesses,
Coggins said.

The governments of the Bahamas, Canada, Ecuador, India and Panama cooperated
in the
investigation, which also involved the FBI, the U.S. Customs Service, the
Internal Revenue
Service, the State Department and the Postal Inspection Service.

After beginning its arrests last week, the INS discovered that some of the
aliens were being housed
in transit countries. Bahamian officials found 31 Indian nationals, and
Ecuadorian officials found 30
being held at a smuggler's residence.

The U.S. government is working to give Cuba information about smugglers and
37 Indians held in
transit there.
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2) U.S. Busts Ring Smuggling Indians Via Moscow, Cuba
Saturday November 21 12:39 AM ET
By Anthony Boadle

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. immigration agents broke up a ''flesh cartel''
that smuggled more
than 12,000 illegal immigrants into the United States from Asia through
Russia, Cuba and the
Bahamas, officials announced Friday.

The immigrants, mostly from India, but also from Pakistan, Afghanistan and
Syria, were smuggled
into the country at the request of businesses seeking cheap labor.

The employers paid $20,000 per immigrant, fees that were later deducted from
wages, officials
said.

The Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) said it had arrested 21
smugglers and was
investigating the U.S. businesses that ``placed orders'' for the illegal
immigrants.

``This is the largest alien smuggling organization ever dismantled in U.S.
history,'' Attorney General
Janet Reno said at a news conference.

INS officials said the organization, based in India, had smuggled as many as
300 immigrants a
month into the United States by air, land and sea over the last three years,
mostly from the Indian
state of Gujarat.

The immigrants were flown to Moscow and then to Havana and the Bahamas, from
where they
were usually taken by plane or boat to Florida. The trip could take months,
because they were held
until the fees were paid by employers.

INS agents raided a safe house in the Bahamas Saturday and detained dozens
of Indian citizens
who were waiting to make the last leg of the trip to the United States.

An INS videotape showed piles of airline tickets used by the Indians to fly
to the Caribbean via
Moscow.

>From the Bahamas, smugglers flew their human cargoes to airfields in
Florida, ferried them across
in launches to coastal marinas or dropped them near beaches to swim ashore.

Other routes took the immigrants by commercial flights to Ecuador and from
there to Miami, or to
Mexico and up to the U.S. border by land, and across the Texas border to Dallas.

The INS Friday announced three indictments in Dallas, which charged 31
people with smuggling
and conspiracy to smuggle.

INS agents arrested the head of the ring, Nitin Shettie, 30, also known as
Nick Diaz, Saturday in
the Bahamas.

Twenty of his associates were arrested in Florida, Texas, California and New
Jersey.

One ringleader, Navtej Pall Singh Sandu, 40, was arrested in Puerto Rico. A
third, Niranjan Maan
Singh, 58, is being sought in India, the INS said.

INS agents used wiretapping powers authorized by a tough immigration law
passed in 1996 for the
first time in busting the smuggling ring.

INS Commissioner Doris Meissner said authorities in India, the Bahamas,
Ecuador, Canada and
the Dominican Republic helped dismantle the criminal organization.

Meissner said the Russian government was not involved in the investigation.
She said she did not
know whether the Cuban authorities knew about the smuggling route through Cuba.

The INS chief said her agents will seek out ``unscrupulous employers'' who
used smuggled labor to
``put them of business.''

INS agents visited 26 workplaces in the Eastern United States Friday seeking
employers who
benefited from the smuggling.

``These smugglings were ordered by unscrupulous businesses that wanted cheap
labor,'' said U.S.
Attorney Paul Coggins from Dallas. ``It is time for those who traffic in
flesh to pay their pound of
flesh.''

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3) FAIR: When Congress Empowers the
INS, Laws Can Be Enforced

WASHINGTON, Nov. 20 /PRNewswire/ -- The Federation for American Immigration
Reform
today applauded efforts by the INS in breaking up the largest illegal alien
smuggling ring in United
States history, one that brought an estimated 7,200 Indian and Middle
Eastern illegal aliens to the
United States.

Dan Stein, FAIR's Executive Director, noted that the INS was able to
demolish the alien smuggling
ring due in large part to vital immigration reforms passed by Congress in
1996. He issued the
following statement in response to today's announcement by the U.S.
Department of Justice:

``Today's arrest of 21 modern-day slave traders is a testament to the need
for an increased
commitment by federal law enforcement agencies to investigate and shut down
alien smuggling
operations. These sorts of smuggling networks, of which there are no doubt
many more, are
controlled by international crime syndicates, who prey upon the desperation
of people all around
the world. It is vital that Congress earmark additional resources to permit
the INS, the FBI, and
other law enforcement agencies to eradicate this most despicable form of
human exploitation.''

SOURCE: Federation for American Immigration Reform
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4) INS Dismantles Immigration Smuggling Ring
Friday November 20 2:45 PM ET

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service said
Friday it had
dismantled the largest immigration smuggling ring in U.S. history.

The ring brought 7,200 illegal aliens into the United States in the last two
years, the INS said.

INS officicals said 21 members of the smuggling ring had been arrested and
50 illegal immigrants
were in custody.

The INS said the ring brought illegal immigrants from India via Moscow and
Cuba to the United
States and charged $20,000 per person.

``This is the largest alien smuggling organization ever dismantled in U.S.
history,'' Attorney General
Janet Reno said in a statement.

The INS said that the ring was smuggling as many as 300 Indian citizens per
month into the United
States and had made up to $220 million over three years.
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5) Smashing a Smuggling Ring

By Michelle Mittelstadt
The Associated Press
W A S H I N G T O N, Nov. 20 —Federal officials said
today they had smashed an international ring that
smuggled thousands of Indians and other foreigners
into the United States at $20,000 or more a person.
It was the largest operation to smuggle aliens into the
United States ever dismantled, they said.
“Let all those who flout the nation’s immigration laws be
warned: We plan to take swift and decisive action against
you,” said Attorney General Janet Reno.
Twenty-one people have been arrested in the United
States, Puerto Rico and the Bahamas as part of “Operation
Seek and Keep,” a yearlong smuggling and money-laundering
investigation conducted by the Immigration and Naturalization
Service. The organization’s alleged ringleader, Nick Diaz,
also known as Nitin Shettie, was arrested by INS officials in
the Bahamas last week.

By Land, Sea, or Air
Officials said the cartel specialized in smuggling Indian
nationals through Moscow to Cuba, where they were then
dispatched to Ecuador, the Bahamas or Mexico before being
smuggled into the United States by land, sea or air. The ring
also smuggled aliens from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Syria,
the officials said.
“Cracking a multimillion-dollar alien smuggling ring whose
operations spanned four continents is an impressive
achievement that underscores INS’ commitment to defending
the integrity of this nation's immigration laws,” INS
Commissioner Doris Meissner said at a news conference.
The ring smuggled an estimated 7,200 foreigners into the
United States over the last three years, U.S. officials said.
The illegal immigrants were detained in secret houses in the
United States until their families or prospective employers
paid their smuggling fees.
Reno criticized the “unscrupulous employers who wanted
cheap labor and fearful workers who could be manipulated.”

Ring Included 38 States
While most of the organization’s clients remained on the East
Coast, INS said its investigation identified aliens or employers
in 38 states. Aliens whose smuggling fees were paid by an
employer worked at that business until the debt was paid off,
officials said.
The smuggling profits were shipped to India through
Dallas, the Bahamas, Canada, Dubai, Ecuador or the United
Arab Emirates, INS said.
The governments of the Bahamas, Canada, Ecuador,
India and Panama cooperated in the investigation, which also
involved the FBI, U.S. Customs Service, Internal Revenue
Service, State Department and U.S. Postal Inspection
Service.
After beginning its arrests last week, INS discovered that
some of the ring’s clients were being housed in transit
countries. Through information provided by INS, officials in
the Bahamas found 31 Indian nationals, and on Thursday
night, Ecuadorean officials found 30 Indians being held at a
smuggler’s residence.

1996 Law Helped Monitor Ring
INS is working with the State Department to provide Cuba
with information about the identities of smugglers there and
37 Indians held in transit there.
The immigration service availed itself of new authority,
granted under the 1996 immigration law, to intercept
electronic communications, monitoring more than 35,000
calls during “Operation Seek and Keep.”
The case also marks the first time federal prosecutors
have used money-laundering statutes to dismantle an alien
smuggling operation and seize assets, said Paul Coggins, U.S.
attorney for the Northern District of Texas.
Diaz and his associates were charged in three sealed
indictments returned by a federal grand jury in Dallas.
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