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  1. #1
    Senior Member Populist's Avatar
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    May 2007

    Human smugglers' money trail cuts across Arizona border

    Human smugglers' money trail cuts across Arizona border
    May 25th, 2008 @ 12:00pm
    by Associated Press

    MESA, Ariz. - A truck loaded with 10 illegal immigrants is worth about $25,000 to a human smuggling organization. A successful operation can move three or four truckloads of immigrants from the Mexican border to metro Phoenix every day.

    A drop house with 50 immigrants locked inside represents about $125,000 worth of cargo.

    With numbers like those, it doesn't take long to add up to the estimated $2.5 billion smugglers generate annually by moving human cargo through Arizona. That figure, which comes from court records, only counts the upfront costs to the immigrants, which typically run about $2,500 a head.

    So much cash is generated by human smugglers that one of the toughest parts of running their business is moving the money, according to a series of police affidavits related to state efforts to seize the illicit profits.

    Beyond prosecuting hundreds of people involved in human smuggling rings on criminal charges, police and prosecutors are going after the money generated by the criminal organizations.

    The Arizona Financial Crimes Task Force, made up of agents from federal, state and local agencies, has seized about $17 million in wire transfers believed to be linked to the human smuggling trade since the force was created in 2000. The task force has also brought criminal charges against the owners and employees of several car dealerships and travel agencies that, according to the indictments, supplied smugglers with vehicles and airline tickets to move the migrants through Arizona.

    ``What you have is a situation where there is a great deal of money available and the competition becomes more fierce, and that leads to greater levels of sophistication,'' said Mesa police Chief George Gascon. ``Anybody that thinks that we in policing are really going to be able to put a dent in this whole thing is not understanding the economic forces at work.''

    Some of the seizures made by the task force are being challenged in a federal court case, which alleges state prosecutors have grabbed millions of dollars in legitimate transactions from innocent people trying to pay their bills or send cash to family members.

    Matthew Piers, a Chicago lawyer who filed a federal lawsuit in 2006 on behalf of several people whose money transfers were impounded, said hundreds of such cases have been documented by the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights.

    ``We fully acknowledge that human smuggling and drug smuggling on the Mexico-Arizona border is a very serious problem well worth the attention of law enforcement,'' Piers said. ``Our concern is how you do it and whether innocent people are being injured in the process. We have little doubt that is happening.''

    Smuggling fees are due when immigrants arrive at a drop house, a place in metro Phoenix where those who just crossed the border are temporarily stashed. The drop house operator will telephone the migrant's sponsor, someone who has agreed to come up with the smuggling fee, with instructions on how to pay. Once the money is received, the immigrant is let go or moved to his or her final destination.

    The method favored by smugglers is to use legitimate wire services such as Western Union and other companies that transfer cash across state lines and international borders, according to Daniel Kelly of the Arizona Department of Public Safety. Kelly is part of the financial crimes task force.

    As recently as five years ago, the human smugglers openly collected their fees by showing up at a local Western Union office or another wire service outlet and simply picking up the money, according to Kelly.

    Payments to a single collector sometimes reached $70,000 per day.

    The smugglers adapted when police started blocking those transfers and seizing the payments.

    The latest tactic used by human smugglers is called ``triangulation'' by the financial crimes task force. Instead of sending the money directly to the drop house operators where the immigrants are being kept, the sponsors wire it directly to smugglers in northern Sonora.

    When the payment is received in Mexico, the drop house operator is contacted by phone and the immigrant is released.

    An analysis done in February 2006 showed that in a two-month period, about $28 million in wire transfers were sent from the United States to 201 Western Union stores in Sonora, Mexico.

    When police interviewed the people sending the money, many admitted they were sponsors paying the smuggling debts of family or friends.

    Western Union and other money transmitters have long cooperated with the state's efforts to identify and seize payments connected to human and drug smuggling in Arizona, said Sherry Johnson, a company spokeswoman.

    But the company balked when Attorney General Terry Goddard began demanding detailed records of every wire transfer of $300 or more from anywhere in the world into Sonora. Last year, the Arizona Court of Appeals sided with the company, concluding Goddard's request was too broad, in part because it demanded information on money transfers neither sent nor received in Arizona.

    ``Western Union supports the legitimate law enforcement needs of the state of Arizona,'' Johnson said. ``But at a certain point, they were requesting information about customers that didn't touch the state of Arizona. We started hearing from customers that their funds had been seized and that they were having difficulty getting any kind of resolution to it.''

    With the money now going to Mexico, the challenge for human smugglers has become getting money into the United States so that people on the Arizona side of the operation can get paid, according to Goddard, whose office handles the legal work associated with the seizures of smuggling payments.

    ``We have made the process more difficult,'' Goddard said. ``It was just dead easy in the past to simply walk into Western Union and pick up all the money you needed for all of the people that have been smuggled. Now you've got to get cash across the American border. And there are going to be misses in the process. There are going to be seizures and there is going to be disruption.''
    Join our efforts to Secure America's Borders and End Illegal Immigration by Joining ALIPAC's E-Mail Alerts network (CLICK HERE)

  2. #2
    loneprotester's Avatar
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    Jan 1970
    A drop house with 50 immigrants locked inside represents about $125,000 worth of cargo.

    And there are an estimated 1,000 drop houses operating at any one time in the city of Phoenix. Do the math.

  3. #3
    Senior Member Richard's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2005
    Of the thousand drop houses not all are of the same size, full or in use at the same time. There has been a drop house bust with 50 illegal migrants inside most have been smaller.
    I support enforcement and see its lack as bad for the 3rd World as well. Remittances are now mostly spent on consumption not production assets. Join our efforts to Secure America's Borders and End Illegal Immigration by Joining ALIPAC's E-Mail Alerts network (CLICK HERE)

  4. #4
    Senior Member USPatriot's Avatar
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    Jun 2007
    SW Florida
    The sponsor should be arrested and deported if they are Illegals, if they are new citizens their citizenship should be revoked

    There would be no human smuggling if there were no sponsors or money to pay the smugglers.

    Smugglers of a Honduras couple here in SW Florida had their New Born Baby stolen by the smugglers because they did not pay their smuggling debt and it has cost FL. tax payers thousands of dollars for our sherriffs dept.'s continued investigation of this crime which,imo,will never be solved.The baby is gone and the parents apparently have been given victim sanctuary as they are stil here 3 yrs. later.
    "A Government big enough to give you everything you want,is strong enough to take everything you have"* Thomas Jefferson

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