News From the Border

Providing the news from a different front but from a war that we must win as well! I recognize the poverty and desperate conditions that many Latinos live in. We, as the USA, have a responsibility to do as much as we can to reach out to aid and assist spiritually with the Gospel and naturally with training, technology and resources. But poverty gives no one the right to break the laws of another sovereign nation.

Friday, February 29, 2008

Six in custody as ICE dismantles large-scale human smuggling scheme

Ring suspected of bringing hundreds of illegal aliens a month into the Southland

LOS ANGELES - Six suspects are in custody facing federal criminal charges after U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents executed a series of search and arrest warrants yesterday targeting a large-scale criminal organization suspected of smuggling several hundred illegal aliens a month into the Los Angeles area.

Yesterday's enforcement actions are the latest developments in a nearly three-year investigation by ICE that began in May 2005 when the Los Angeles Police Department discovered two smuggling "drop houses" in a 24-hour period in South Los Angeles occupied by more than 140 illegal aliens.

According to the 160-page case affidavit, the ensuing ICE investigation uncovered a highly profitable organization run by Guatemalan nationals that provided housing and transportation to illegal aliens who had previously been smuggled across the U.S.-Mexico border to Phoenix. After the ring brought the aliens from Arizona to Southern California, they were held in "drop houses" in Los Angeles and Lancaster, Calif., before being loaded into vehicles and driven to cities nationwide. The ring's clients, primarily foreign nationals from Central America, paid the organization from $1,200 to $3,700 each for the domestic portion of their journey.

"This probe has dealt a serious blow to one of the largest human smuggling operations uncovered on the West Coast in recent years," said Jennifer Silliman, deputy special agent in charge for the ICE office of investigations in Los Angeles. "Based on our investigation, we suspect this ring was transporting more than 100 illegal aliens a week into this area. The human smuggling trade is a ruthless, greed-driven enterprise that puts communities at risk and generates billions of dollars in illicit proceeds. That is why attacking and dismantling these organizations is one of ICE's top enforcement priorities."

During yesterday's operation, ICE agents arrested one of the three alleged ringleaders of the Francisco smuggling organization, so-called because the three primary suspects are all named Francisco. Francisco Andres Pedro, 35, of Guatemala, is expected to make his initial appearance in federal court here this morning.

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