TUCSON, Ariz. – More than 40 people were arrested Monday in connection with a family-run smuggling ring that brought hundreds of illegal immigrants into the country, officials said.
The 44 arrests came after a two-year investigation into the ring, which operated out of the southern Arizona town of Bowie, officials said. Many of those arrested are American citizens, officials said. Eleven more suspects, including at least five Mexican nationals, remained at large Monday.
The ring recruited young women to smuggle migrants' infants through ports of entry, posing as their mothers, while the parents were smuggled through the desert separately, said John Lewis, the FBI special agent in charge in Arizona.
"This network organized, housed, fed, guided and transported large numbers of illegal aliens across the border," said Paul K. Charlton, U.S. attorney for Arizona.
The suspects were named in an indictment this month. They included the suspected ring leader, Pablo Esteban Juarez, 31; his wife, Lori Gutierrez Juarez, 30; guides who walked people across the border; drivers who transported illegal immigrants; and "money runners" who picked up smuggling fees.
Officials said each migrant was charged between $500 and $800 to be smuggled from Agua Prieta, Mexico, to Bowie, about 83 miles east of Tucson. They would be charged more — typically around $2,000, and sometimes even higher — to be moved from Bowie to their destination.
People paid the ring more than $500,000 in the past four years, Lewis said.
The indictment charged that members of the ring were involved in a conspiracy to transport and harbor illegal immigrants and to launder money for profit.
There were no telephone listings for the Juarezes in Bowie. It was not immediately known whether they had lawyers or whether they were American citizens.