Connecticut Man Indicted in Human Smuggling Conspiracy
BOSTON – A Connecticut man was indicted today by a federal grand jury in Worcester for conspiracy to commit human smuggling offenses.
Fagner Chaves De Lima, 41, of East Hartford, Conn., was indicted on one count of attempted human smuggling. De Lima was previously arrested and charged by criminal complaint with one count of attempted human smuggling in June 2022.
According to the charging documents, De Lima conspired with others to illegally smuggle individuals from Brazil into the United States for money and profit. It is alleged that, in exchange for payments of thousands of dollars, De Lima and conspirators made travel arrangements for clients to illegally enter the United States from Brazil by plane or bus, and arranged lodging accommodations for clients during their travel. In addition, De Lima allegedly extorted clients while their journey to the United States was underway by threatening to harm them and/or their family if they did not pay additional money. De Lima and his conspirators also allegedly created and transmitted false documents that were used as part of the illegal smuggling operation.
In May and June 2022, an undercover agent initiated communications with De Lima over WhatsApp under the guise that the agent sought to have his sister and niece smuggled into the United States. The undercover agent offered to pay $15,000 for De Lima’s services, and De Lima allegedly agreed to the arrangement. According to the charging documents, De Lima stated during these communications (translated from Portuguese) that he had been engaged in human smuggling “for 20 years,” and that he will smuggle individuals “whether you have a visa, no visa, or if . . .[they] are wanted by the police.” De Lima also allegedly acknowledged in later messages that human smuggling is “dangerous.” On June 16, 2022, De Lima traveled to Worcester to meet with the undercover agent, during which De Lima allegedly accepted two checks for the agreed upon total of $15,000 in exchange for his smuggling services and requested the sister’s passport and Social Security number.
“We allege that Mr. De Lima led a substantial human smuggling operation that violated federal law and threatened the safety of individuals who sought his services to come to the United States for a better life. We further allege that he reaped tens of thousands of dollars in profit in exchange for exploiting people seeking the American dream,” said United States Attorney Rachael S. Rollins. “This indictment is a reminder that our office will identify and prosecute those whose actions cause danger to human life and threaten our nation’s security.”
“Fagner Chaves De Lima is accused of exploiting, endangering, and extorting vulnerable victims, even threatening harm, in an elaborate human smuggling scheme to line his own pockets with hundreds of thousands of dollars,” said Joseph R. Bonavolonta, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Boston Division. “This man took advantage of those seeking a new life in America while circumventing our country’s laws that are in place to ensure public safety. As this case demonstrates, FBI will not hesitate to bring human smugglers who have no regard for human life to justice.”
The charge of conspiracy to commit human smuggling provides for a sentence of up to 10 years in prison, up to three years of supervised release and a fine of $250,000. Sentences are imposed by a federal district court judge based upon the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and statutes which govern the determination of a sentence in a criminal case.
U.S. Attorney Rollins and FBI Boston SAC Bonavolonta made the announcement. Valuable assistance was provided by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Yuma Field Office; Homeland Security Investigations in Yuma; U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Boston Division; and the Marlborough, Worcester, Hartford (Conn.) and East Hartford (Conn.) Police Departments. Assistant U.S. Attorney John T. Mulcahy of Rollins’ Criminal Division is prosecuting the case.
If you believe that you or someone you know may be a victim of human smuggling/trafficking, please contact the National Human Trafficking Resource Center Hotline at 1-888-373-7888, or Text 233733.
The details contained in the charging documents are allegations. The defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.