Seattle – A 48-year-old citizen of Romania, who has no legal status in the U.S., was indicted this week for thirteen federal crimes for his attempt to smuggle six other Romanian nationals into the U.S., announced Acting U.S. Attorney Tessa M. Gorman. Ionel Niculae, aka Adrian Dumitrescu, was taken into custody near Lynden, Washington, at an accident scene where the car he was driving flipped over, badly injuring three passengers.
“We are responding to an increase in dangerous smuggling events on our northern border,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Tessa M. Gorman. “This case illustrates how these illegal smuggling efforts endanger not only those being smuggled into the U.S., but also others traveling near the border. The driver who was hit by the fleeing SUV was injured and is still recovering from the crash.”
“We have seen an uptick in the number of human smuggling events here in Washington State along our northern border with Canada,” said Special Agent in Charge (SAC) Robert Hammer, who oversees HSI operations in the Pacific Northwest. “HSI will continue to prioritize investigations into these organizations using dangerous tactics that jeopardize not only the lives of the individuals being smuggled, but also the lives of those in our communities who may be in danger by this reckless behavior.”
The indictment charges Niculae with one count of improper entry by an undocumented individual, three counts of bringing an undocumented individual into the United States at a place other than a designated Port of Entry and causing serious bodily injury, three counts of bringing an undocumented individual into the United States at a place other than a designated Port of Entry, and six counts of aiding and abetting the improper entry of an undocumented individual.
According to the criminal complaint, the Jeep Niculae was driving was seen crossing into Canada illegally three days before the September 17, 2023, accident. On the day of the crash, Canadian Border officers obtained images of the Jeep traveling near the Canada/U.S. Border and, moments later, a camera on the U.S. side picked up images of the Jeep crossing the border via some agricultural fields near Lynden.
Border Patrol agents set out to find the Jeep and were quickly alerted by the Sumas Police Department that the Jeep was involved in a crash with another SUV. The Jeep had flipped and three of the six passengers in the car had broken bones – two had broken pelvises and one had a broken leg. Niculae was not injured.
“Due to the exceptional vigilance and response of our Border Patrol Agents, Blaine Sector agents were able to assist with the accident scene and link the accident to a recent vehicle that illegally crossed the border smuggling several Romanian citizens. Events like this highlight the disregard smugglers have for human life,” said Chief Rosario Vasquez, Blaine Sector Chief Patrol Agent.
None of the people in the Jeep were legally present in the United States. Niculae possessed drivers licenses for both Washington and California and appears to have been residing in Southern California. He has been detained at the Federal Detention Center at SeaTac since being charged by criminal complaint on September 20, 2023.
Bringing an undocumented individual into the U.S. at a place other than a designated Port of Entry resulting in serious bodily injury is punishable by up to 20 years in prison. Bringing an undocumented individual into the U.S. at a place other than a designated Port of Entry is punishable by up to ten years in prison. Aiding and abetting improper entry by an undocumented individual is punishable by up to six months in prison.
The case is being investigated by Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and U.S. Border Patrol with assistance from the Washington State Patrol and Sumas Police Department.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Sanaa Nagi.