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Press Release

Foreign National Sentenced to 31 Months in Prison For Leadership Role in Human Smuggling Conspiracy

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of Columbia

            WASHINGTON – A Pakistani citizen was sentenced today to 31 months in prison for his role in a scheme to smuggle undocumented migrants from Pakistan into the United States. 


            Acting Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Blanco of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Jessie K. Liu of the District of Columbia and Special Agent in Charge Angel M. Melendez of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in New York made the announcement.


            Sharafat Ali Khan, 32, a Pakistani citizen and former resident of Brazil, pleaded guilty on April 12, to one count of conspiracy to smuggle undocumented migrants into the United States for profit before U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton of the District of Columbia.  Khan was extradited to the United States from Qatar on July 13, 2016.  Following his prison term, Khan will be deported back to Pakistan.


            “Combatting human smuggling and illegal migration is one of the highest priorities of the Department of Justice, and we will continue to work with our domestic and international law enforcement partners to identify and disrupt smuggling networks operating across the globe,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Blanco.  “This prosecution should serve as an example that whether at home or abroad, smugglers who facilitate illegal migration into the United States will be brought to justice and held accountable.”


            “Sharafat Khan was at the center of a vast human smuggling network that preyed on the desperation of foreign nationals hoping to get into the United States,” said U.S. Attorney Liu. “He was responsible for organizing, coordinating, and controlling smugglers and lower-level associates of the operation. His actions put his clients – and the United States – at significant risk. His arrest, conviction and sentence should deter others from engaging in this rapacious, dangerous conduct.”


            “Sharafat Khan organized an intricate network that was open to the highest bidder to transport undocumented migrants, regardless of who they were, from Pakistan and elsewhere through Brazil and Central America and then into the United States,” said Special Agent in Charge Melendez. “He has admitted that the journey included severe conditions that caused a considerable risk of serious bodily harm or death. Today’s sentencing highlights our relentless law enforcement efforts, both foreign and domestic, to track down organizations who make a profit from smuggling undocumented migrants through U.S. borders without prejudice and with a clear disregard for those who may end paying the final price.”


            According to admissions in the plea agreement, between March 2014 and May 2016, Khan and other co-conspirators organized and arranged the unlawful smuggling of large numbers of undocumented migrants to the United States.  For their smuggling operation, Khan admitted that he and his co-conspirators used a network of facilitators to transport undocumented migrants from Pakistan and elsewhere through Brazil and Central America and then into the United States by land, air or sea travel.  Khan further admitted that he was responsible for managing safe houses for the migrants and arranging a network of associates in other countries to serve as escorts during different legs of the smuggling route.  Khan also admitted that voyages included harsh conditions that caused a substantial risk of serious bodily injury or death – including lengthy foot hikes with little food and water through the Darien Gap, a dangerous tropical forest area in Panama.  At sentencing, the court found that Khan was a primary organizer or leader of the conspiracy.


            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.


            HSI New York investigated this case with assistance from HSI Brazil, Mexico, Panama and Washington, D.C. field offices; the South Florida Joint Terrorism Task Force, FBI Miami Field Office; the Human Smuggling Cell; the U.S. Department of State's Diplomatic Security Service in Brasilia, Brazil; the Brazilian Federal Police, and the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s National Targeting Center.  The Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs provided significant support with the defendant’s extradition and foreign legal assistance requests.   The Justice Department thanks the Government of Qatar for their assistance with the extradition in this case.  Senior Trial Attorney Michael Sheckels of the Criminal Division’s Human Rights and Special Prosecutions Section, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Ken Kohl and former Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard DiZinno of the District of Columbia prosecuted the case.

Updated October 18, 2017

Human Smuggling
Press Release Number: 17-223