Elizabeth, New Jersey Man Pleads Not Guilty to Human Smuggling Charges
Burlington, Vermont – The United States Attorney’s Office stated that Jhon Reina-Perez, 34, of Elizabeth, New Jersey, was arraigned today in the District of Vermont before United States Magistrate Judge Kevin J. Doyle. He is charged in a three-count superseding indictment that alleges he and codefendants Simon Jacinto-Ramos and Victor Lopez-Padilla conspired to commit human-smuggling offenses and brought migrants without legal status to the United States for the purpose of private financial gain. Reina-Perez was arrested in Elizabeth, New Jersey on September 19, 2023, and was seen for an initial appearance in the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey before being transferred to the District of Vermont for further proceedings. He entered a plea of not guilty and was ordered to be detained pending further proceedings.
Lopez-Padilla had been arraigned in the District of Vermont on August 29, 2023, after he had likewise been transferred from the District of New Jersey. He is also detained pending further proceedings in the case. Jacinto-Ramos has not yet been arrested in conjunction with the indictment. An arraignment will be scheduled after his arrest.
According to court records, Lopez-Padilla, Reina-Perez, and Jacinto-Ramos worked together to bring migrants to, and smuggle them into, the United States for their personal profit, while knowing that the migrants lacked legal status to enter and remain in the United States. The defendants arranged transportation for the smuggled migrants from the Montreal area to remote areas of the border between the United States and Canada, predominantly near Richford, Vermont. The defendants then arranged transportation for the migrants in the United States in furtherance of their illegal entry. The United States Border Patrol intercepted at least five such smuggling events between April 2022 and July 2023 that appeared to agents to have been organized by the defendants based on phone data and witness interviews, and those events involved at least 25 smuggled migrants in total.
The United States Attorney’s Office emphasizes that an indictment contains allegations only and that Reina-Perez remains presumed innocent unless and until he is convicted of a crime. Reina-Perez faces a maximum sentence of 10 years of imprisonment and a minimum sentence of 3 years if convicted as charged. The actual sentence would be determined with reference to Federal Sentencing Guidelines.
U.S. Attorney Nikolas P. Kerest commended the investigative efforts of the United States Border Patrol and thanked Homeland Security Investigations and the New Jersey State Police for their support of Border Patrol in the apprehension of Reina-Perez.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew Lasher is handling the prosecution of Lopez-Padilla, Reina-Perez, and Jacinto-Ramos. Lopez-Padilla is represented by Devin McLaughlin, Esq., and Reina-Perez is represented by Stephanie Greenlees, Esq. Counsel has not yet appeared or been appointed for Jacinto-Ramos.
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