Friday, May 17, 2013

Two Foreign Nationals Sentenced in Houston to Prison for Human Smuggling

Indian national Kaushik Jayantibhai Thakkar and Brazilian national Fabiano Augusto Amorim were each sentenced today to serve 36 months in prison for their roles in smuggling undocumented migrants to the United States for private financial gain, announced Acting Assistant Attorney General Mythili Raman of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson for the Southern District of Texas and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Director John Morton.

Thakkar, 33, and Amorim, 28, were sentenced by U.S. District Judge Ewing Werlein Jr. in the Southern District of Texas.  In addition to their prison terms, Thakkar and Amorim were sentenced to serve two years of supervised release.

On Dec. 2, 2012, and Jan. 4, 2013, respectively, Thakkar and Amorim each pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to bring undocumented migrants into the United States for profit and to one count of unlawfully bringing two undocumented migrants into the United States for profit.

According to court documents, Thakkar and Amorim worked together and with other co-conspirators to smuggle individuals from India into the United States.  In support of the conspiracy, Thakkar and others recruited individuals in India who were willing to pay up to $60,000 to be smuggled into the United States.  For their smuggling operations, Thakkar and Amorim and their associates used a network of co-conspirators in South America, Central America, the Caribbean and the United States, including the state of Texas.  Using this network, Thakkar, Amorim and their co-conspirators transported groups of undocumented migrants from locations within India through South America, Central America and the Caribbean and then into the United States by various means, including by air travel, automobiles, water craft and foot.  Many of these smuggling events involved illegal entry into the United States via the border between the United States and Mexico near McAllen and Laredo, Texas.

A third co-conspirator, Maria Adela De Luna, pleaded guilty on Nov. 9, 2012, to one count of conspiracy to harbor undocumented migrants in the United States.  On Feb. 15, 2013, De Luna was sentenced to serve 19 months in prison and three years of supervised release for her role in the conspiracy.

The investigation was conducted by agents with ICE-Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in McAllen and Houston, with the assistance of U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Alien Smuggling Interdiction Unit.  This case is being prosecuted jointly by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Leo J. Leo III and Casey MacDonald of the Southern District of Texas and Trial Attorney Stephen Curran of the Criminal Division’s Human Rights and Special Prosecutions Section.

The investigation was conducted under the Extraterritorial Criminal Travel Strike Force (ECT) program, a joint partnership between the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and HSI.  The ECT program focuses on human smuggling networks that may present particular national security or public safety risks, or present grave humanitarian concerns.  ECT has dedicated investigative, intelligence and prosecutorial resources.  ECT coordinates and receives assistance from other U.S. government agencies and foreign law enforcement authorities.

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