FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE|
WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 8, 2004
TDD (202) 514-1888
THREE ARRESTED IN CONSPIRACY TO SMUGGLE ALIENS INTO THE
UNITED STATES FROM THE MIDDLE EAST
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Assistant Attorney General Christopher A. Wray of the Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Kenneth L. Wainstein of the District of Columbia, and Michael J. Garcia, Homeland Security Assistant Secretary for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), today announced the arrest of three Michigan residents on charges of running an alien smuggling operation that illegally brought citizens from Iraq, Jordan and other Middle Eastern countries to the United States.
Defendants Neeran “Nancy” Hakim Zaia, age 50, Basima “Linda” Sesi, 59, and Basil “Jack” Yousif Denha, 54, were arrested this morning in the Detroit area. The three defendants are Iraqi-born naturalized U.S. citizens and residents of Sterling Heights, a suburb of Detroit.
The three defendants were charged in a five-count indictment returned by a federal grand jury in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 3, 2004, and unsealed today. The indictment charges the defendants with conspiracy to smuggle aliens into the United States beginning in early 2001 up through the present, in violation of 18 USC Section 371, and bringing unauthorized aliens to the United States for commercial advantage or private financial gain, in violation of 8 USC Section 1324(a)(2)(B)(ii).
According to the indictment, Zaia owned a business called Universal Investment & Law Services, which she used as a conduit for alleged alien smuggling activities, advertising in Detroit media outlets, including an Arab-language magazine. Zaia and a co-conspirator also allegedly operated “Saudi-Jordan,” a travel agency located in Amman, Jordan, and met there with migrants who wished to enter the United States. The indictment alleges that Zaia and a co-conspirator recruited aliens in Iraq and Jordan who wished to be taken to the United States in exchange for the payment or promised payment of money - often for thousands of dollars. Zaia allegedly represented to the migrants that she could procure the appropriate documents to facilitate that travel, in exchange for those payments.
The indictment further alleges that Zaia and other conspirators promised aliens U.S. visas, but after securing partial payments for those visas, instead provided the aliens with visas from countries in South America. The defendants would allegedly transport the aliens to South American countries as a staging area for entry into the United States, and then once the aliens were in South America, they would demand additional money to bring them into the United States.
The indictment alleges that in the course of this conspiracy, more than 200 aliens were brought to and smuggled illegally into the United States.
“The Department of Justice is committed to protecting our citizens against the serious security threat posed by alien smuggling organizations,” said Assistant Attorney General Wray. “These criminals facilitate the fraudulent and clandestine entry into the United States of unknown foreign individuals, putting the security of our borders at risk.”
“Alien smuggling violates our immigration laws, jeopardizes our national security and often takes advantage of the desperate and vulnerable. Today’s arrests send the strong message that alien smugglers can expect to pay a steep price for their illegal conduct,” said U.S. Attorney Wainstein.
"Today's arrests in the United States represent excellent work done by ICE agents who tracked Neeran Zaia and her co-conspirators,” said Assistant Secretary Garcia. “By arresting the leaders of this network, we have broken a human smuggling organization that exploited vulnerabilities in our border and we have shut down an avenue for smuggling individuals from Iraq, Jordan and other countries into the U.S."
The arrests and charges arise from an extraterritorial undercover investigation led by Special Agents Donald Bruckschen and Cindy Yang of the Washington D.C. Office of the Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), assisted by Special Agent Jeffrey Lyons and others from the Detroit ICE Office. The State Department’s Diplomatic Security Service also assisted with the investigation. The case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorneys Jim U. Oliver, Jr. and Judith O’Sullivan of the Domestic Security Section of the Criminal Division at the U.S. Department of Justice, and Assistant United States Attorney Bruce Hegyi of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the District of Columbia.
An indictment is merely a formal accusation. It is not proof of guilt and the defendant is presumed innocent until and unless he or she is proven guilty.