NEW YORK – A human smuggling ring that charged thousands of dollars to move people across the Mexico-U.S. border and into New York City and other locations nationwide was exposed with charges against 10 defendants, authorities said Wednesday.
Six defendants arrested in Texas and another arrested in Brooklyn were held for initial appearances in federal courts on charges they conspired to accept money to take people across the border and relocate them in the United States. Three defendants remained fugitives.
Prosecutors said the smuggling scheme operated from June 2015 until last month.
Those arrested in Texas had residences in San Antonio, Laredo, McAllen and Round Rock. According to papers filed in Manhattan federal court, the defendants carried out various roles in the conspiracy, including finding places to stay for people being smuggled into the country and transporting them across the border. One defendant rented vehicles to move the people around the United States, an indictment naming eight defendants said.
Two defendants were identified in a criminal complaint signed by a Department of Homeland Security agent.
The agent, Luis Santana, wrote in the court papers that the arrests stemmed from a broader investigation that began in June 2014 into an international criminal organization suspected of smuggling previously deported people back into the United States from the Caribbean and Central and South America.
He said the smuggling organization is believed to have smuggled people from the Dominican Republic and other countries through Guatemala and Mexico, among other places, and across the Texas border before they were moved to New York and other U.S. destinations.
Santana said the smuggled people are frequently required to make separate payments to smugglers to progress to further destinations.