A human smuggling ring that helped people from Pakistan and Afghanistan illegally enter the US was publicly revealed after the ring's Brazil contact pleaded guilty in court, reported The Washington Post.
Sharafat Ali Khan, a Pakistani national and a permanent resident of Brazil, pleaded guilty in federal court in Washington.
The ring helped smuggle people from Pakistan and Afghanistan into the US through Brazil and other Latin American countries.
Exports to Afghanistan find way back to Pakistan
The 32-year-old served as a facilitator for people from Pakistan. They would contact him in Brazil and pay him $5,000 to $12,000 each. They then walked through the Colombian jungle or travelled to the US by bus, foot and plane, stated the court filings.
Khan pleaded guilty to one count of human smuggling for profit and conspiracy to defraud the United States.
“The average traveller took approximately nine months to get from Brazil all the way to the United States. During the voyage from Brazil through South and Central America, aliens were subjected to harsh conditions that caused a substantial risk of serious bodily injury or death,” the court records stated.
Khan's charges carry a maximum punishment of five years in prison. However, in a plea deal, the prosecutors agreed to seek no more than 37 months at sentencing before US District Judge Reggie B Walton.
“Are you entering this plea of guilty because you are in fact guilty?” Walton asked Khan, who appeared in court.
“Yes sir,” said Khan.
Khan was arrested in Washington on July 14 after being extradited from Qatar. He also used the pseudonym 'Dr Nakib', and circumstances of his arrest were not disclosed.
Khan also had an international case against him. He was charged under a statute that gives the district court jurisdiction over overseas defendants who have never lived in the US.
An affidavit was filed to support Khan's arrest by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
“Khan is a well-known alien smuggler operating in Brazil,” Special Agent Frank Iervasi said in the affidavit. The affidavit further said another alien smuggler had shed light on Khan's reputation.
His indictment only named six smuggle individuals. However, 81 foreign nationals identified him by name or in photographs as the man who arranged for them to travel from Brazil to the US from March 2014 through May 2016.
In plea documents, the actual number of individuals was estimated to be anywhere from 25 to 99.
Indicted in June, he was alleged to have worked with at least three other conspirators who were not named. The six immigrants that were smuggled into the US are not in deportation proceedings in New York and Baltimore, said Bill Miller, spokesperson for the US attorney's office in the district.
Customs foil smuggling bid at Karachi airport
The affidavit stated that recordings and electronic communications were obtained by investigators, some of which were in Urdu. These provided details of his activities, fees, routes and associates.
The general route used by the operation went from Pakistan to Dubai, and then to any combination of Brazil, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Mexico.
Several smuggled individuals stated they would stay in a house provided by Khan before further travel. They were also asked to wipe all phone data and communication records. His favoured medium of communication was WhatsApp Messenger.
Law enforcement was informed by another source that Khan worked at an airport in Brazil and frequently had foreigners show up at his house. He also kept foreign currencies and foreign documents of the trafficked people "without any justification'.
This story originally appeared on The Washington Post
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