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Friday, February 15, 2008

Immigrant Smuggling Ring Busted in Phoenix

Seven suspected human smugglers and twenty-eight suspected illegal immigrants were taken into custody today after Phoenix authorities raided an apparent "drop house", near Indian School Road and 57th Avenue.
One of the illegal immigrants called the Phoenix police at approximately 11:30 a.m, directing the authorities to the drop house, saying he had been held captive and escaped through a window and he was using a neighbors phone to call.

All together there were five females and twenty-three males that had been kept bound and beaten as "coyotes" (also known as illegal immigrant smugglers) attempted to extort these illegals families in Mexico.

The seven suspects face charges of kidnapping, aggravated assault and extortion.

This was only one raid in a series of raids conducted on Thursday.

In another operation led by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials and the Maricopa County sheriff, over 100 people suspected of being in the country illegally who were on probation for various crimes, were arrested.

In the various raids conducted Thursday, thirteen drop houses, twenty arrests and 210 illegal immigrants were taken into custody and the police say they expect about 75 arrests from this operation.

As officers raided houses, mostly in West Phoenix, they seized "ledgers, money, weaponry and people suspected of involvement in a major, lucrative cell that controlled the transportation of people from a border town, Naco, to Phoenix."

The director of the Arizona Department of Public Safety, Roger Vanderpool makes it clear that breaking up organizations such as these are central in their fight against human smuggling and further stating "It’s organized crime. Going after the head of the snake, cutting it off, is the effective way of dealing with organized crime."

Lat year in Phoenix, over 100 drop houses were discovered and several so far this year. One of the Thursday raids discovered 35 people inside.

Jose Luis Suarez-Lemus of Peoria, Ariz., and Roel Ayala-Fernandez of Phoenix were described as ring leaders and charges of human smuggling, money laundering, conspiracy and participating in a criminal syndicate, were issued by the state attorney general's office.

Authorities believe this operation brought in about $130,000 a week by transporting two to four loads of six to ten people a day.

On February 12, 2008, ICE issued a press release stating the a Mexican man has been sentenced to life in prison plus seven years after being found guilty by a federal jury of multiple charges for his role in a violent smuggling-related hostage incident.

Bernardo Mancinas-Flores, 29 of Escuinapa, Sinaloa, Mexico, was sentenced here yesterday by U.S. District Court Judge Roslyn Silver. In imposing a life sentence, Judge Silver noted that Macinas-Flores' crimes were committed with malice against people who were vulnerable due to their illegal status in the United States.

In other ICE news for the Phoenix area, yesterday ICE reported that more than 110 foreign-born criminals on probation in Maricopa County have been arrested and now face deportation as a result of a new operation involving U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office, and Maricopa County Adult Probation.

Among those being targeted are illegal aliens with felony criminal records, as well as legal permanent residents of the United States whose criminal convictions make them subject to deportation. The arrests so far include people on probation for sex offenses, drug crimes, and aliens with prior convictions for violent crimes. The operation began in November 2007, using officers and deputies from all three organizations working throughout the county.

Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, known for being very tough on illegal immigration issues as well as crime in general, said, "We're not going to stand by and allow deportable criminals to victimize law-abiding members of this community."

Arpaio has been called "America's Toughest Sheriff" for his controversial approach to operating the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office, mainly in regard to his treatment of prisoners.

You can find out more about Sheriff Arpaio at Wikipedia.