WASHINGTON: An Indian national has pleaded guilty to the charges of smuggling Indians as illegal immigrants into the United States.
Pleading guilty before a New Jersey court on Thursday, Bhavin Patel, 38, said he did this for private financial gain.
He faces a maximum potential sentence of 10 years in prison and a fine of up to USD 250,000. Sentencing is scheduled for July 9.
According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court, agents for the Department of Homeland Security Investigations received information that a smuggling operation run by Patel was attempting to find methods to bring foreign nationals from India into the US.
The investigation revealed that the smuggling organisation recruited Indian nationals and others to pay fees in exchange for passage to the US.
Beginning in October 2013, an undercover law enforcement officer posing as a smuggler began meeting with Patel in Bangkok. Patel told the undercover law enforcement officer that he wanted to smuggle Indian nationals into the US.
On three different occasions, Patel or his conspirator transported the Indian nationals to an airport in Thailand, at which point the undercover law enforcement officer would presumably use his contacts to smuggle them into the US via commercial airline flights, the Department of Justice said.
Patel agreed to wire down payments for each individual to be smuggled and to pay a balance of tens of thousands of dollars for each individual once the foreign nationals arrived in the US.
Over the ensuing months, Patel arranged for six Indian nationals to be brought to Thailand for smuggling into the US via Newark Liberty International Airport.
He was arrested on December 7, 2018, upon his arrival at Newark Liberty.