FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 21, 2011
CAMDEN, NJ – Three of six members of an international scheme responsible for allegedly smuggling into the United States hundreds of illegal aliens from Brazil, India, and elsewhere pleaded guilty to conspiracy today, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.
Nacip Teotonio Pires, a/k/a “Ze Maria,” a/k/a “Baraso,” 47, of Newark, N.J.,; Rubens Da Silva, a/k/a “Diogo Oliveira,” 39, of Haverhill, Mass.; and Claudinei Pereira Mota, 34, of Newark, each pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Joseph H. Rodriguez in Camden federal court to Informations charging one count of participating in a conspiracy to bring aliens into the United States illegally. A fourth member of the smuggling ring, Francismar Da Conceicao, a/k/a “Alex,” 36, of Hillside, N.J., pleaded guilty to a similar charge before Judge Rodriguez in Camden federal court on Monday.
Pires and Da Silva were arrested on June 10, 2011, in Newark and Haverhill, respectively, for administrative immigration violations as part of a coordinated effort to prevent their flight from prosecution on the federal criminal charges to which they pleaded guilty today. Da Conceicao and another co-conspirator, Sanderlei Alves DaCruz, a/k/a “Kauan,” a/k/a “Beicinho,” 32, of Houston, Texas, were arrested the same day for similar immigration violations in Hillside and Houston, respectively. Mota was arrested for immigration violations in Newark on June 13, 2010.
A sixth defendant, Priscilla (last name unknown), a/k/a “Clema Aparacida Lopes,” of Long Branch, N.J., remains at large.
According to the documents filed in this case and statements made in court:
From January 2008 through June 2011, Pires, Da Silva, and Mota conspired with 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. They 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 to St. Maarten, the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, and to destinations in the United States.
Pires, Da Silva, and Mota charged customers of the alien smuggling scheme from $13,000 to more than $25,000, depending on the route the customer used and whether the customer paid in advance or paid in installments after arriving in the United States. Many of the customers of the scheme were young women from Brazil, most of whom agreed to repay their smuggling debt after arriving in the United States by working as dancers in strip clubs in Newark and elsewhere. In certain instances, women who fell behind on their debt repayment were urged to consider engaging in prostitution to earn extra money. The defendants induced customers to pay their smuggling debts by threatening to harm family members in their home countries and by obtaining title to property the customers owned in their home countries.
Pires, Da Silva, and Mota also 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. They then paid attorneys to assert those false asylum claims, which often resulted in the rapid release of their customers.
The conspiracy counts to which Pires, Da Silva, and Mota pleaded guilty carry a maximum potential penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Sentencing before Judge Rodriguez is scheduled for March 26, 2012, for Pires and March 27, 2012, for Da Silva and Mota.
U.S. Attorney 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 Andrew M. McLees for the investigation leading to the charges.
The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney André M. Espinosa of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Economic Crimes Unit in Newark.
Pires: Carol Gillen Esq., Assistant Federal Public Defender, Newark
Da Silva: Stephen Dratch Esq., (CJA), Livingston, N.J.
Mota: Mark A. Berman Esq., (CJA), River Edge, N.J.