Florida Man Sentenced For Smuggling Albanian Citizens Into The United States
ATLANTA - Enkeleon Manati has been sentenced to three years in prison for his role in an alien smuggling operation based in Greece.
“It is imperative that we verify the true identities of those entering our country,” said United States Attorney Sally Quillian Yates. “Two people with fraudulent Greek passports, which the defendant helped them obtain, attempted to enter the U.S. Thanks to the diligence and training of Customs and Border Protection agents at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, both were detained and Manati’s criminal conduct was discovered. Those who assist individuals in illegally entering the United States will be held accountable.”
“Preserving the integrity of our immigration system is a key aspect in upholding our national security,” said Brock D. Nicholson, special agent in charge of ICE Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in Atlanta. “Thanks to some great screening work by U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers we have now sealed off a potential vulnerability in the system.”
According to United States Attorney Yates, the charges and other information presented in court: Beginning in or about October 2012, Enkeleon Manati and co-conspirator Matrona Koulga began smuggling Albanian citizens into the United States using fraudulently obtained Greek passports issued under assumed identities. According to Koulga, Manati referred Albanian citizens to Koulga who wished to travel to the U.S. but could not lawfully obtain visas. Manati arranged for at least six Albanian citizens to meet with Koulga in Greece for this purpose. Albanian family members in New York had contacted Manati for help in smuggling relatives into the United States.
In October 2012, for instance, Koulga and an Albanian citizen using a fraudulently obtained Greek passport, traveled from Switzerland to Florida. In April 2013, Koulga and two Albanian citizens using Greek passports issued under assumed identities, traveled from Italy to France to Atlanta, Ga. They then attempted to enter the United States at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport using fraudulently obtained Greek passports that Manati and Koulga helped them acquire. According to these individuals, both of whom were called as witnesses during Manati’s trial, they each met Koulga in Greece, after which Koulga took them to Greek government offices to obtain officially issued Greek passports in assumed identities.
Manati traveled to Atlanta to meet with the family members of the Albanian citizens attempting to enter the United States. One family member testified that he brought $24,000 which he intended to pay Manati, once his relative, a nephew, was in the United States. But the plan was thwarted when U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents realized that these Albanian individuals, attempting to enter the United States through Atlanta on Greek passports, were unable to speak Greek. The Albanian citizens were promptly detained, and Manati and Koulga were later arrested.
On September 30, 2013, Koulga pleaded guilty to alien smuggling. She received a sentence of seven months of confinement and agreed to testify at Manati’s trial. Law enforcement in Greece investigated the smuggling operatives in that country and have made arrests in the case as well.
Following a jury trial on August 29, 2014, Manati, a/k/a Keli, 41, of Jacksonville, Fla., was convicted of conspiracy to commit, and commission of, alien smuggling. He was sentence to three years in prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release. Manati was also sentenced to perform 150 hours of community service.
This case was investigated by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations and Customs and Border Protection.
Assistant United States Attorney Susan Coppedge prosecuted the case.
For further information please contact the U.S. Attorney’s Public Affairs Office at USAGAN.PressEmails@usdoj.gov or (404) 581-6016. The Internet address for the home page for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia Atlanta Division is http://www.justice.gov/usao/gan/.