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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, December 17, 2009
Guyanese National Charged with Smuggling Indian Nationals to the United States

A Guyanese national has been indicted on charges of conspiracy and alien smuggling in connection with her role in the smuggling or attempted smuggling of four Indian nationals to the United States.

Annita Devi Gerald, aka Annita Rampersad, 52, was charged in a nine-count indictment returned yesterday by a federal grand jury in the Southern District of Texas. Gerald was arrested by ICE special agents in Houston on Nov. 17, 2009, and has been held without bond since that time.

According to the indictment, from approximately April 2009 to Nov. 17, 2009, Gerald and others conspired to smuggle four Indian nationals into the United States. Allegedly, Gerald and her co-conspirators fraudulently obtained Belizean visas for the Indian nationals and escorted them from India to Belize, moving through various countries in Central and South America. Gerald allegedly provided lodging for all four Indian nationals in Belize while further smuggling arrangements were made.

In August 2009, Gerald allegedly arranged transportation for one of the Indian nationals to cross the border from Belize into Mexico where he met with Gerald’s co-conspirator, who escorted him through Mexico. In Monterrey, Mexico, Gerald’s co-conspirator paid a Mexico-based smuggler to illegally transport the individual across the Mexico-U.S. border to Houston. After making these arrangements, Gerald’s co-conspirator allegedly flew to Houston where the co-conspirator received the Indian national at a motel approximately 10 days later. The smugglers who delivered the Indian national to Gerald’s co-conspirator in Houston allegedly demanded and received a smuggling payment prior to releasing him. The Indian national smuggled to Houston is currently being administratively detained by ICE, awaiting removal. The whereabouts of the other three Indian nationals allegedly harbored by Gerald in Belize is currently unknown.

If convicted, Gerald faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison for conspiracy, and 10 years in prison for each of the four counts of encouraging and inducing aliens to come to the United States for profit. Additionally, she is subject to the maximum penalty for each of the four counts of bringing aliens to the United States for profit, which is 10 years for a first or second violation, and 15 years for any other violation. She is also subject to a fine of up to $250,000.

An indictment is merely an accusation, and the defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty at trial beyond a reasonable doubt.

The investigation was conducted by ICE’s Office of Investigations in Miami and Houston, with the critical assistance of the ICE Attaché offices in El Salvador, Ecuador, Brazil, Singapore and Panama, as well as the ICE Office of Intelligence in Washington, and the Alien Smuggling Interdiction Unit of Customs and Border Protection (CBP) in Washington. El Salvadoran authorities, particularly the Direción General de Migración y Extranjería (El Salvador Immigrations) and the Grupo Especial de Investigaciones Nacionales e Internacionales (El Salvador Police-GEINI) also provided invaluable assistance.

The case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorneys Jerry Massie and Jessica Morris of the Criminal Division’s Domestic Security Section, with the assistance of Assistant U.S. Attorneys Edward Gallagher and Douglas Davis of the Southern District of Texas.

09-1360