Smuggling Ring From Pakistan And Afghanistan To United States Exposed In DC
A human smuggling ring that helped people from Pakistan and Afghanistan illegally enter the United States by way of Brazil and Latin America was publicly revealed as the ring’s Brasilia contact pleaded guilty in federal court in Washington on Wednesday.
Sharafat Ali Khan, 32, who U.S. authorities said is a Pakistani national and permanent resident of Brazil, pleaded guilty to serving as a facilitator for dozens of people from Pakistan who contacted him in Brazil, paid $5,000 to $12,000 each, then walked through the Colombian jungle or traveled north by bus, foot and plane, according to court filings.
Khan pleaded guilty to a count of conspiracy to defraud the United States and to human smuggling for profit.
The trips he arranged were long, arduous and dangerous, court filings assert.
“The average traveler took approximately nine months to get from Brazil all the way to the United States. During the voyage from Brazil through South and Central America, aliens were subjected to harsh conditions that caused a substantial risk of serious bodily injury or death,” the court records stated.
Many aliens, the filings state, traveled to Turbo, Colombia, and from there into Panama’s eastern border where travelers then had to hike through the Darien Gap which was described as “a dangerous, wild tropical forest area” stretching approximately 100 miles that cannot be traveled by vehicles.
The charge against Khan carries a statutory maximum of five years in prison. But in a plea deal, both sides agreed that federal sentencing guidelines called for a range of 24 to 46 months and prosecutors agreed to seek no more than 37 months at sentencing July 6 before U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton.
“Are you entering this plea of guilty because you are in fact guilty?” Walton asked Khan, who appeared in court in prison orange clothing.
“Yes sir,” said Khan.
Khan, who also used the pseudonym “Dr. Nakib,” was arrested July 14 in Washington after being extradited from Qatar, according to court documents. The circumstances of his arrest were not disclosed.
For the international case, prosecutors charged Khan under a statute that gives the District court in Washington jurisdiction over overseas defendants who are charged with certain offenses abroad and have never lived in the United States.
“Khan is a well-known alien smuggler operating in Brazil,” Special Agent Frank Iervasi of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said in a June 3 law enforcement affidavit filed to support Khan’s arrest. The affidavit said the characterization of Khan’s reputation was relayed to law enforcement officials by another alien smuggler.
Khan’s indictment cited only six smuggled individuals, but he allegedly was identified by name or photograph by about 81 foreign nationals who said he was the person who arranged their travel from Brazil between March 2014 through about May 2016, Iervasi wrote.
In court Wednesday, Khan and the government stipulated in plea documents that the actual number of individuals was between 25 and 99.
The June indictment, unsealed Feb. 21, alleged that Khan worked with at least three other unnamed conspirators, some of whose identities are known to a federal grand jury in the District.
The six immigrants, identified only by initials in court filings, are now in deportation proceedings in New York and Baltimore, said Bill Miller, spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office of the District.
ICE agent Iervasi wrote that recordings and electronic communications obtained by investigators, including some in Urdu, provided details of Khan’s smuggling activities, routes, fees, associates and payment methods.
The affidavit said the general route used by the smuggling operation went from Pakistan to Dubai, Brazil, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Guatemala and Mexico.
According to charging documents, several smuggled individuals said they were directed to Khan’s home or his telephone number, and some stayed in a house provided by Khan before further travel. Khan would tell the individuals to erase their phones or communications using his favored WhatsApp Messenger instant messaging application, Iervasi wrote.
Another source told law enforcement that Khan works at an airport in Brazil, had many foreigners show up at his home looking for him, and kept foreign currencies and foreign documents of people from different countries “without any justification,” Iervasi said in his affidavit.