Canadian National Pleads Guilty to Human Smuggling Conspiracy
A Canadian national pleaded guilty today to conspiracy to bring aliens to the United States for private financial gain in connection with his role in a scheme to smuggle aliens from Sri Lanka through the Caribbean and into the United States.
As part of the plea, Sri Kajamukam Chelliah, aka Mohan, aka Richie, 55, of Sri Lanka, admitted to conspiring with others to facilitate the travel of aliens from Sri Lanka through Haiti, Turks and Caicos Islands, and the Bahamas to the United States from on or about July 1, 2019 through on or about Oct. 10, 2019. During the course of the conspiracy, Chelliah worked with other human smugglers, arranging housing and transport for illegal aliens en route to Canada through the United States. Sentencing will be scheduled at a later date.
“By participating in a smuggling operation which planned to illegally transport individuals through various countries, including the United States, the defendant jeopardized the national security of the United States for his own financial benefit” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Nicholas L. McQuaid of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. “As this case demonstrates, the Criminal Division is committed to working with our law enforcement partners both here and abroad to bring human smugglers to justice and to disrupt and dismantle the international networks they operate.”
Chelliah arranged for the individuals to be transported from the airport in Port Au Prince, Haiti, to a hotel where Chelliah housed and provided them with food. Chelliah then arranged for transportation by boat from Haiti to Turks and Caicos Islands, then to the Bahamas, and then by boat to Miami, Florida. Chelliah accompanied the individuals, including traveling with them by boat during their journey. The actions undertaken by Chelliah and co-conspirators in furtherance of their smuggling activities were done in exchange for payment.
Specifically, Chelliah further admitted as part of the plea that from approximately October 2017 to approximately September 2019, six Sri Lankan nationals with no legal right to come to, enter, or reside in the United States, travelled from Sri Lanka to Haiti with the assistance of human smugglers. Upon arrival in Haiti, Chelliah arranged for the six individuals to be picked up at the airport and taken to a hotel. Chelliah arranged for the individuals to be housed and fed at the hotel, then travel by boat from Haiti to Turks and Caicos Islands and from Turks and Caicos Islands to the Bahamas. The six aliens would then travel from the Bahamas to Miami, Florida, by boat.
According to the plea agreement, on Oct. 10, 2019, the six aliens, accompanied by Chelliah, boarded a Haitian sloop sailboat heading for Turks and Caicos Islands. The Haitian sloop sailboat carrying approximately 154 aliens, including Chelliah, was subsequently interdicted by Turks and Caicos authorities. Chelliah was arrested and ultimately convicted in Turks and Caicos on local immigration charges and sentenced to 12 months imprisonment. Following the completion of his prison sentence, he was placed in immigration detention in Turks and Caicos.
Chelliah was later arrested on July 28, 2020, by Turks and Caicos authorities, based on a provisional arrest request submitted by the United States premised on a sealed U.S. criminal complaint. He consented to extradition and, on Aug. 15, 2020, the Governor of Turks and Caicos issued an order allowing the extradition to the United States. Chelliah was extradited to the United States on Aug. 17, 2020, and the criminal complaint was unsealed at his initial appearance on the same date.
This case is being investigated by HSI Miami, with assistance from the HSI Human Smuggling Unit and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). The investigation is being 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.
The case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorneys Rami S. Badawy and John Alex-Romano of the Criminal Division’s Human Rights and Special Prosecutions Section (HRSP), and Assistant U.S. Attorney Brian Dobbins of the Southern District of Florida, with support from HRSP Trial Attorney Jim Hepburn. The Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs provided significant assistance in the investigation and in securing the defendant’s extradition to the United States. The Department of Justice gratefully acknowledges the government of Turks and Caicos Islands for their valuable assistance.