Two foreign nationals are in custody after an undercover sting in New Jersey, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. They were allegedly engaged in smuggling illegal immigrants to the U.S. on commercial flights.
The pair were arrested by U.S. Department of Homeland Security and Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) agents at the Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey Wednesday and appeared in court to face multiple federal crimes Thursday.
Nileshkumar Patel and Harsad Mehta, both Indian nationals, have been charged with one count of conspiracy to bring in and harbor aliens. Separately, Patel is charged with six counts and Mehta is charged with four counts of of smuggling foreigners to the U.S. for financial gain.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office said the government began looking into the pair when HSI received information that Patel and Mehta were working out methods to get foreign nationals into the U.S. illegally and further investigation revealed the operation sought out Indian nationals to pay a high fee in order to obtain passage to the U.S.
The complaint describes how an undercover law enforcement officer posing as a smuggler was able to infiltrate the pair’s operation, offering to help get their charges to the U.S. after Patel and Mehta first transported them from India to Thailand.
During the course of the investigation Patel told the undercover agent that he had been smuggling people into the U.S. since 1998. Further, under the supervision of the undercover investigation, the pair worked to have six Indian nationals be brought to Thailand to be smuggled into the U.S. through Newark Liberty International Airport.
According to prosecutors the conspiracy charge carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and year of the smuggling charges has a maximum penalty of five years.