Today's Top Stories - Tuesday December 18, 2007
Trafficking ring busted
US authorities have brought down indictments against nine people of Indian origin for their alleged roles in a global human smuggling racket aimed at transporting illegal immigrants to the US through Bangkok.
The acting United States Attorney for Pennsylvania and the Department of Homeland Security have announced that the nine are accused of involvement in a major cross-border racket.
The three-count indictment is against nine persons from India, including one naturalised American citizen: Naresh Patel, Dinesh Diwan, Rakesh Patel, Hiren Mehta, Rajesh Katwa, Jitendra Sheth, Asha Varma, Bibin Balachandran and Sandip Kumar Patel.
The indictment charges they conspired to smuggle undocumented aliens from India to the eastern US state of Pennsylvania through Thailand and Los Angeles.
The indictment returned by the grand jury alleged that the racket extended from 2003 through December 5, when it was broken up and the Indians were arrested.
During the five years the ring operated, it took at least a dozen people into the US by using false passports and fabricated supporting documents, the indictment charged.
If convicted of these offenses the defendants face penalties of up to 15 years in prison and fines totaling $500,000. The indictment also calls for the forfeiture of $69,318 seized from the defendants at the time of their arrests on Dec 5.
Eight Indian suspects were arrested on Decr 5 in Chicago and Pennsylvania. The ninth, 22-year-old Katwa of the Chicago area, is considered a fugitive.
According to the indictment, which has been posted by the Attorney's Office in Pennsylvania, the conspirators were paid thousands of dollars for each alien smuggled into the US.
They allegedly hatched one conspiracy at meetings in bars and at doughnut shops in Chicago and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. A video store in Mount Prospect, Illinois, was used to transfer passports and do money transactions.
The indictment describes how the alleged ringleader and US citizen Naresh Patel, 45, was heard outlining his plan to smuggle people from India, China and Egypt during a September, 2006 meeting at a horse race betting parlour in the town of York, Pennysylvania.
About five months later, six Indian nationals were moved through Bangkok to the US, ending up in a York motel, where a woman paid a $25,000 cash fee, the indictment said. A second group of six followed the same route to a motel in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, in August. (Compiled by BangkokPost.com)