Connecticut Man Pleads Guilty to Human Smuggling Conspiracy
For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of Massachusetts
BOSTON – A Connecticut man pleaded guilty today in federal court in Worcester to conspiring to commit human smuggling.
Fagner Chaves De Lima, 41, of East Hartford, Conn., pleaded guilty to one count of attempted human smuggling. U.S. District Court Judge Margaret R. Guzman scheduled sentencing for July 13, 2023. De Lima was arrested and charged by criminal complaint in June 2022 and subsequently indicted by a federal grand jury in August 2022.
“Mr. De Lima’s human smuggling operation exploited and endangered vulnerable individuals who sought his services to come to the United States for a better life. He exploited these vulnerable individuals in order to reap tens of thousands of dollars in profit,” said United States Attorney Rachael S. Rollins. “This case should serve as 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 admitted today to taking advantage of those seeking a new life in America by conspiring to exploit, endanger, and extort them,” said Joseph R. Bonavolonta, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Boston Division. “No human being should ever be treated as a commodity but that is exactly what this man did. He lied to his victims to make hundreds of thousands of dollars for himself, and the FBI and our law enforcement partners will not sit idly by and let that happen. We will leverage the full force of the federal government to ensure those who engage in human smuggling are held accountable for their crimes.”
De Lima conspired with others to illegally smuggle individuals from Brazil into the United States for money and profit. 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 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 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 agreed to the arrangement. 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 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 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.
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.
Updated April 13, 2023