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Press Release

Two Indian Nationals Indicted For Smuggling Foreign Nationals Into The United States Via Commercial Flights

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

NEWARK, N.J. – Two Indian nationals were indicted by a federal grand jury today for allegedly smuggling foreign nationals into the United States via commercial airline flights, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.

Nileshkumar Patel, 41, and Harsad Mehta, 66, both of India, are each charged by indictment with one count of conspiracy to bring in and harbor aliens and one count of money laundering conspiracy. In addition, Patel is charged with six counts and Mehta is charged with four counts of smuggling foreign nationals into the United States for private financial gain. Patel and Mehta were arrested on Oct. 21, 2015 upon their arrival at Newark Liberty International and both remain detained pending the outcome of the charges.

According to the indictment:

Homeland Security Investigations (HSI)  received information that a smuggling operation run by Patel and Mehta was attempting to find methods to illegally smuggle foreign nationals from India into the United States. The investigation revealed that the smuggling operation recruited Indian nationals and others to pay fees in exchange for passage to the United States.

Beginning in April 2014, an undercover law enforcement officer posing as a smuggler began meeting with Patel and Mehta in Bangkok, Thailand. Patel and Mehta stated that they were involved in the smuggling business and had multiple Indian nationals that they were intending to smuggle into the United States. Mehta and Patel agreed to transport the Indian nationals from India to Thailand, at which point the undercover law enforcement officer would presumably use his contacts to smuggle the Indian nationals into the United States via commercial airline flights.

Patel and Mehta agreed to wire a $10,000 down payment for each individual to be smuggled into the United States and to pay a balance of tens of thousands of dollars for each individual once the foreign nationals arrived in the United States.

In total, Patel and Mehta arranged for six Indian nationals to be brought to Thailand for smuggling into the United States via Newark Liberty International Airport on three occasions.

The conspiracy to bring in and harbor aliens charge carries a maximum potential sentence of 10 years in prison. The money laundering conspiracy charge carries a maximum potential penalty of 20 years in prison. Each substantive charge of alien smuggling carries a maximum potential penalty of five years in prison and a mandatory minimum of three years in prison.

The charges and allegations contained in the indictment are merely accusations, and the defendants are considered innocent unless and until proven guilty.

U.S. Attorney Fishman credited special agents of HSI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Terence S. Opiola, with the investigation leading to the charges.

The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Francisco J. Navarro of the U.S Attorney’s Office National Security Unit in Newark.

Defense counsel:

Patel: Peter Carter Esq., Assistant Federal Public Defender, Newark

Mehta: Mark Berman Esq., River Edge, New Jersey

Updated June 14, 2016

Human Smuggling
Press Release Number: 16-080