NEWARK, N.J. – Six alleged members of an international human trafficking scheme face federal charges for bringing hundreds of people from Brazil, India, and elsewhere into the United States, New Jersey U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.
“Alien smugglers make big business of exploiting dreams and treating people as human cargo. Smuggling routes snake around the globe, with facilitators and customers colluding to commit crimes. Our job is to protect both our borders and the vulnerable victims of this pervasive practice,” Fishman said.
The complaint charges Nacip Teotonio Pires, a/k/a “Ze Maria,” a/k/a “Baraso,” 47, of Newark; Rubens Da Silva, a/k/a “Diogo Oliveira,” 39, of Haverhill, Mass.; Sanderlei Alves DaCruz, a/k/a “Kauan,” a/k/a “Beicinho,” 31, of Houston, Texas; Francismar Da Conceicao, a/k/a “Alex,” 36, of Hillside; Claudinei Pereira Mota, 34, of Newark; and one unnamed individual: Priscilla LNU, a/k/a “Clema Aparacida Lopes,” of Long Branch. Each defendant is charged with one count of conspiracy to bring aliens into the United States illegally.
Pires and Da Conceicao were arrested on June 10, in Newark; Da Silva and DaCruz were arrested the same day in Haverhill and Houston, respectively. Mota was arrested in Newark on June 13. The sixth defendant remains at large, authorities said.
From January 2008 through June 2011, the defendants allegedly conspired with each other and others to bring aliens into the United States illegally from Brazil, India, and elsewhere as part of an elaborate for-profit alien smuggling scheme that involved co-conspirators in New Jersey, Massachusetts, Texas, and elsewhere. As part of the scheme, the defendants allegedly arranged, facilitated, and monitored the travel of customers along two primary smuggling routes – the first of which included travel through central America and across the international border between Mexico and the United States. The second route included travel through St. Maarten, the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.
Through the authorized interception of the alleged co-conspirators’ cell phone calls, the use of confidential sources of information, and other means, law enforcement agents learned that the defendants allegedly charged customers from $13,000 to more than $25,000 – depending on the route the customer used and whether the customer paid in advance or in installments after arriving in the United States.
Many of the customers of the alleged scheme were young women from Brazil, most of whom agreed to repay part of their smuggling debt after arriving in the United States by working as dancers in strip clubs in Newark and elsewhere. Some women who fell behind on their debt repayment were allegedly urged to engage in prostitution to earn extra money. The defendants allegedly induced customers to pay by threatening to harm family members and by obtaining title to property the customers owned in their home countries.
The defendants also allegedly instructed customers who were caught crossing the border illegally to concoct false asylum claims and falsely report that they would be abused or face other danger if immediately deported.
The count with which each of the defendants are charged carries a maximum potential penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Fishman credited special agents of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Homeland Security Investigations (ICE HSI), under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Peter T. Edge, for the investigation leading to the charges.
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