Digital Version of November/December 2014 Print Edition
Brazilian pleads guilty in India-U.S. human smuggling scheme
A Brazilian man has pleaded guilty for his role in an operation that smuggled undocumented immigrants from India into the U.S., through Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean.
The investigation, said the U.S. Department of Justice, was conducted under the Extraterritorial Criminal Travel Strike Force (ECT) program, a joint partnership between DoJ's Criminal Division and Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI). The ECT program focuses on human smuggling networks that may present particular national security or public safety risks, or present grave humanitarian concerns.
Fabiano Augusto Amorim, 28, pleaded guilty on Jan. 4 in a federal courthouse in Houston, TX, to conspiracy counts. At sentencing slated for April, he faces a maximum of 15 years in prison and a fine of up to $500,000.
Federal officials say Amorim and his co-conspirators Maria Adela De Luna and Kaushik Jayantibhai Thakkar used a network of alleged conspirators to transport groups of undocumented migrants from India through South America, Central America and the Caribbean and then into the U.S. by various means, including air travel, automobiles, water craft and on foot. Many of the smuggling events, said prosecutors, involved illegal entry via the border between the U.S. and Mexico near McAllen and Laredo, Texas.
According to court documents, Amorim and other conspirators recruited individuals in India who were willing to pay up to $60,000 to be smuggled into the U.S.
Amorim, said the Department of Justice, is currently serving a 36-month sentence in federal prison for participating in a separate conspiracy to smuggle undocumented migrants from Brazil and Peru into the U.S. via a maritime route from the Bahamas into southern Florida.
De Luna pleaded guilty on Nov. 9, to one count of conspiracy to harbor undocumented migrants in the U.S. Thakkar pleaded guilty on Dec. 3, 2012, to one count of conspiracy to bring undocumented migrants into the U.S. for profit and to one count of unlawfully bringing two undocumented migrants into the United States for profit.
The Justice Department said the investigation was conducted by agents with ICE-HSI in McAllen and Houston, with assistance from U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Alien Smuggling Interdiction Unit.