Foreign National Pleads Guilty in Houston to Human Smuggling Charges
WASHINGTON – A foreign national pleaded guilty today for his role in a scheme to smuggle undocumented immigrants from India into the United States, announced Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Criminal Division; U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson for the Southern District of Texas; and Special Agent in Charge Brian M. Moskowitz of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Homeland Security Investigations (ICE-HSI) in Houston
Kaushik Jayantibhai Thakkar, 33, an Indian national, pleaded guilty today at a hearing before U.S. District Judge Ewing Werlein Jr., in Houston, to one count of conspiracy to bring undocumented immigrants into the United States for profit and to one count of unlawfully bringing two undocumented immigrants into the United States for profit.
Thakkar was arrested in New York on April 8, 2012, on a complaint filed in the Southern District of Texas charging him with one count of conspiracy to unlawfully smuggle undocumented immigrants into the United States. On June 6, 2012, Thakkar was charged by superseding indictment, along with four other individuals, with one count of conspiracy to smuggle undocumented immigrants into the United States and six human smuggling counts related to three incidents in which Thakkar helped smuggle undocumented immigrants into the United States. Based on Thakkar’s guilty plea, the government will dismiss the remaining human smuggling counts against him at sentencing.
At the plea hearing and in related court documents, Thakkar admitted that between January 2011 and April 2012, he conspired with his codefendants to bring undocumented immigrants to the United States, and to encourage and induce undocumented immigrants to come to the United States unlawfully. According to court documents, Thakkar and his co-conspirators devised the scheme to profit financially.
In support of the conspiracy, Thakkar and other conspirators recruited individuals in India who were willing to pay to be smuggled into the United States. For their smuggling operations, Thakkar and his conspirators used a network of conspirators in South America, Central America, the Caribbean and the United States, including the state of Texas. Using this network, Thakkar and his conspirators transported groups of undocumented immigrants from locations within India through South America, Central America and the Caribbean and then into the United States by various means, including by air travel, automobiles, water craft and foot. Many of these smuggling events, including five of the incidents described in the indictment, involved illegal entry into the United States via the border between the United States and Mexico near McAllen and Laredo, Texas.
At sentencing, which is scheduled for Feb. 22, 2013, Thakkar faces a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison and a fine of up to $500,000.
Thakkar’s co-conspirator Maria Adela De Luna pleaded guilty on Nov. 9, 2012, to one count of conspiracy to harbor undocumented immigrants in the United States. Co-conspirator Fabiano Augusto Amorim has been charged with one count of conspiracy to smuggle undocumented immigrants into the United States and 10 human smuggling counts related to five incidents in which Amorim allegedly helped smuggle undocumented immigrants into the United States.
The investigation was conducted by agents with ICE-HSI in McAllen and Houston. This case is being prosecuted jointly by Trial Attorney Stephen Curran of the Criminal Division’s Human Rights and Special Prosecutions Section and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Leo J. Leo III and Casey MacDonald of the Southern District of Texas.
The investigation was conducted under the Extraterritorial Criminal Travel Strike Force (ECT) program, a joint partnership between the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and HSI. The ECT program focuses on human smuggling networks that may present particular national security or public safety risks, or present grave humanitarian concerns. ECT has dedicated investigative, intelligence and prosecutorial resources. ECT coordinates and receives assistance from other U.S. government agencies and foreign law enforcement authorities.