Phoenix, Ariz. - March 29, 2007 Attorney General Terry Goddard
today announced the indictment of 16 defendants in the breakup of one of
the largest human smuggling operations in the state's history.
A year-long investigation by the Arizona Financial Crimes Task Force
found evidence that six travel agencies in the Valley provided one-way
airline tickets to more than 6,800 undocumented immigrants since August
2005 when Arizona's human smuggling statute took effect. All of the
tickets, worth a total of nearly $2 million, were for travel from
McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas, where immigration security
was known to be less rigorous than at Sky Harbor Airport in Phoenix.
The defendants include 14 people who were owners, managers or employees
of the six travel agencies. The two others indicted are alleged to have
operated a drop house in Phoenix where illegal immigrants stayed before
being driven to Las Vegas for their flights. The investigation is
ongoing, and additional indictments are possible.
"This case underscores our increased commitment to investigate and
prosecute human smuggling in Arizona," Goddard said. "It also reflects
the excellent cooperation of our law enforcement
partners in the Financial Crimes Task Force."
The investigation involved work by the Arizona Attorney General's
Office, the Arizona Department of Public Safety and the Phoenix Police
Charges against the defendants include smuggling human beings for
profit, money laundering, participating in or assisting in a criminal
syndicate, conspiracy and racketeering. All are felonies.
"The teamwork involved in this case is another example of the positive
results that can be obtained when law enforcement agencies work
together," said Jack Harris, Phoenix Public Safety Manager.
The six travel agencies are:
Acapulco Travel and Tour, 4344 W. Indian School Road, Phoenix.
Apricus Travel, 4041 E. Thomas Road, Phoenix.
Marina Tours, 7035 S. Central Avenue, Phoenix, and 535 E. Southern
Mundo Travel, 3620 E. Thomas Road, Phoenix.
Planet Travel, 5233 S. Central Avenue, Phoenix.
Toronto's Travel, 7579 E. Main Street, Scottsdale.
The investigation began in February 2006 when detectives investigating
money transfers at a Western Union store were led to a Phoenix house
where they found 30 undocumented immigrants, along with airline tickets
and travel itineraries. During the investigation that followed,
undercover agents posed as coyotes and purchased $30,000 worth of
airline tickets for illegal immigrants from the suspected travel
agencies. All the airline tickets were purchased with cash in Phoenix
for one-way travel from McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas.
Assisting in the investigation were the Airlines Reporting Corporation
(ARC), based in Arlington, Va., and the following airlines: Southwest
Airlines, America West/US Airways, United Airlines, Air Tran, American
Airlines, Jet Blue Airlines, Delta Airlines, Alaska Airlines, Frontier
Airlines, Continental Airlines and Northwest Airlines.
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