Subject: Re:News/US: Smashing a Smuggling Ring
From: Melanie Orhant (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Date: Tue Jul 20 1999 - 10:38:00 EDT
Thanks for pointing out the fact that this article is directly about
trafficking! After re-reading it (esp. the line >At its height, the ring
was smuggling up to 200 aliens a month and
>delivering them to unscrupulous employers in 38 U.S. states, mostly on the
>East Coast.) I agree with you!
>It actually seems like this operation might have involved trafficking (as well
>as smuggling?) as the article indicates that many of the migrants were
>to employers when they arrived and then had to pay off a debt to their
> Furthermore, though the article doesn't really elaborate on how the migrants
>were "treated like cattle," it sounds like coercive methods might have
>during their transport.
>Subject: News/US: Smashing a Smuggling Ring
>Date: 6/28/99 5:21 PM
>This is not specifically a trafficking piece; however, I thought it was
>interesting....maybe you will to.
>Smashing a Smuggling Ring
>By John F. Yarbrough
>ABC News, June 24, 1999
>Nick Diaz seemed to be looking right at Andres, who was starting to sweat,
>wondering if Diaz knew just what was happening. Anything could go wrong,
>Andres knew. At any moment the deal could fall apart.
>After all, Nick Diaz did not like to encounter problems on his way to
>pulling in roughly $48 million a year as head of one of the most extensive
>alien-smuggling organizations in the world. He was legendary in his native
>India, feared and revered by fellow smugglers, and ever elusive to
>Andres let his fellow smugglers, Susannah and Fernando, do all the talking
>in the hotel room in Quito, Ecuador. But it was Diaz who did the dealing,
>getting an exclusive agreement with these lesser smugglers seeking to get
>in on his action.
>ìI am big, I am bigger than Pablo Escobar,î Diaz told them at one point,
>alluding to the late Medellin drug cartel kingpin who had once been his
>mentor, and whose niece he had even dated. ìThe only difference is that no
>one has ever seen my face.î
>ìThey have now,î he thought to himself. ìThey have now.î
>Andres, an undercover U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service agent
>sitting in the next room, had videotaped the entire meeting between Diaz
>and the two other undercover agents.
>Diaz had, in fact, not sealed another deal to widen his reach, but had
>sealed his fate.
>A Little Luck, A Lot of Wiretapping
>Through court documents, and conversations with undercover INS agents
>speaking for the first time about the operation, a picture emerges of how
>Diazís smuggling ring operated, and how authorities broke it.
>Led by a core group of INS agents working with the Department of Justice,
>the FBI and authorities in several countries, Operation Seek and Keep would
>ultimately dismantle one of the most complex alien-smuggling rings ever
>targeted by the U.S. government.
>It was the first time the INS took the lead in an undercover operation, and
>the first time the INS ever initiated a wiretap operation, intercepting
>some 35,000 phone calls by smugglers. It was also the first time
>money-laundering charges were used to prosecute a smuggling cartel and
>seize its assets.
>The Diaz pipeline was moving aliens out of India to Moscow and then to
>Cuba, from where the complexity of the operation grew. Some were then taken
>to the Bahamas, where they were held until they could be moved by plane or
>boat to Florida. Others were taken down to Ecuador, from where would be
>flown to Miami or moved by boat, plane, and land through Central America up
>through Mexico and into Texas.
>Profits from the ring were then funneled back to India through Canada,
>Dubai, and the United Arab Emirates.
>At its height, the ring was smuggling up to 200 aliens a month and
>delivering them to unscrupulous employers in 38 U.S. states, mostly on the
>Along the way, the illegal immigrants -- who paid the smugglers about
>$20,000 per person -- were treated like cattle, held by the dozens in small
>rooms in stash houses along the way. Those whose ultimate employers paid
>for their transit would have to work in places ranging from fast-food
>restaurants to sweatshops -- until they paid back the employers.
>Everyone Wanted to Smuggle With Him
>It took more than three years of investigating before agents knew that
>Diaz, whose real name is Nittin Shettie, was their target, then months more
>before they could arrest him.
>ìNick Diaz was a mystery -- everyone had heard of him, everyone wanted to
>smuggle with him, everyone wanted to investigate him,î says Andres, who
>requested that his real name not be used because he still works undercover.
>ìBut nobody knew him.î
>Agents got their first break in 1995 when they found out a commercial pilot
>working out of McAllen, Texas, was transporting illegals in his twin-engine
>plane to Dallas and Oklahoma. They linked the smuggling trail to Central
>America and ultimately to two key smugglers, Gloria Canales and Niranjan
>At that point it became a formal racketeering and money-laundering case.
>Undercover agents approached the smugglers in the fall of 1997, and soon
>were working with them, transporting aliens for them by boat, and by small
>planes flown by agents posing as rogue INS pilots.
>ìThey had an intelligence system that is as good as any organized crime in
>the country,î says Mark, an INS agent based in Dallas. ìThey were good, but
>we were good, too.î
>The real break came when a former smuggler, who had become an informant
>after being released from prison, contacted Fernando, an INS agent based in
>Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. The informant acted as a go-between and put INS
>agents in touch with Diazís underlings. After several failed attempts, a
>meeting was brokered in September 1998 to meet with Diaz. Finally, the
>undercover agents knew what Diaz looked like, and began smuggling illegal
>aliens for him.
>The Life Went Out of Him
>By November 1998, after having worked for months with Diaz, investigators
>felt the case against him and others was complete, and they secured
>In mid-November, arrests were made in dozens of cities in the United States
>and elsewhere, including Panama, New York and Los Angeles.
>But it was in Nassau that Operation Seek and Keep scored its real prey --
>even after it nearly lost it altogether.
>Eager agents arrived in the Bahamian port ready to meet with Diaz and then,
>with local police moving in first, make arrests. But bureaucratic delays
>and turf battles with local authorities delayed things. Agents event had to
>slip into a restaurant where other operatives were eating with Diaz, to
>signal to them that the plan was off. As had happened before, they worried
>Diaz would get wise and slip away.
>Finally, Bahamian police raided Diazí stash house in Nassau, and U.S.
>agents quickly followed. As dozens of illegal Indian and Pakistani
>immigrants and their smugglers filed past them, Andres recognized one, who
>had just mixed into the line with the others.
>He pulled aside the Indian with the ponytail and earring and asked him his
>ìRoshan Bhajun,î he answered.
>ìYouíre not Roshan Bhajun,î Andres told him. ìYouíre Nick Diaz.î
>Diaz deflated immediately. Handcuffed, he fumbled through explanations,
>tried to bargain with the police and agents, even displayed some of the
>bravado that Andres had seen on the videotape. Then, finally, he slumped on
>a chair, and a tear came to his eye.
>ìThe life went out of him,î Andres recalls.
>Six months later, Diaz pleaded guilty in a U.S. courtroom to
>money-laundering charges that sent him to prison for 10 years. Seventeen
>others, including Canales, Maan Singh and most of his other associates, did
>the same. Today the INS and Department of Justice continue to go after
>others involved in the ring.
>Even behind bars, agents say, Diaz still speaks of his stature as a
>smuggling kingpin in wistful, bragging tones, as he did that day in the
>Quito hotel room.
>But it is another image Andres keeps of Diaz, both in his head and on the
>wall of one of his offices in Texas.
>That of the teary-eyed man who knows his time has run out, and that perhaps
>his only future in the smuggling world may be as a paid informant.
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