Law enforcement officials in Vermont yesterday revealed 11 people had been indicted or arrested for their alleged involvement in two human smuggling rings that illegally transported hundreds of people into the United States from Canada.
One of the groups, led by a husband and wife in Ontario, allegedly smuggled hundreds of undocumented workers from South Korea, charging up to $10,000 per person. The second group, known as the Galdamez Organization, smuggled people from Pakistan, India, and Central and South America.
Thomas Anderson, US Attorney for the District of Vermont, said that the US Border Patrol and Immigration and Customs Enforcement had started investigating the rings in 2006 out of concern the groups might smuggle terrorists.
"You don't know who's going through that pipeline," Anderson said in a phone interview yesterday. The alleged smugglers did not care whom they assisted "as long as they were paying."
In many instances, the illegal border crossings were financed by prospective employers, friends or relatives, or the immigrants themselves, according to a press release Anderson's office issued.
Police said the group accused of smuggling immigrants into the United States from South Korea would meet the immigrants at the Toronto airport, then feed and house them in Canada while they waited for their chance to cross into the United States. The smugglers would take them to rural locations along the border and guide them across by foot into New York or Vermont. On the US side, they would arrange for drivers to pick up the people and bring them to New York City, Anderson said.
The alleged ringleaders, Chol Min Jang, 49, and Sal Sung Jang, also known as Seonee Jane, were recently arrested in Ontario; Sang Hoon Lee, 35, and Jun Park, 50, were also arrested in Canada. A fifth suspect, Sang Soo Ko, 28, was arrested in South Korea by South Korean authorities. The United States will seek extradition, Anderson said.
A sixth suspected ringleader, Myong Ho Tong, 46, a resident of the New York City area, is being sought by law enforcement.
The six are suspected of smuggling into the country as many as 20 people per month between July 2004 and December 2006.
A second set of indictments charges five family members who are accused of smuggling more than 100 immigrants into the United States illegally between 2004 and 2007. Jose Manuel Galdamez-Serrano, 54; Norvin Gonzalez-Morales, 26; Ruben Damas-Hernandez, 29; Emmanuel Galdamez, 25; and Jatinder Singh, 50, have been charged with conspiracy and bringing illegal aliens into the United States for "the purpose of commercial advantage" and private financial gain, Anderson's office said.
Galdamez-Serrano, Damas-Hernandez, and Gonzalez-Morales were arrested by Canadian authorities and are awaiting extradition. William Nawab, 42, of Montreal, was also arrested in July for his involvement and pleaded guilty to a conspiracy charge in July, authorities said.
Galdamez and Singh are being sought by Canadian police, officials said.
Prosecutors said Galdamez-Serrano is the patriarch of the family and the leader of the smuggling organization. Damas-Hernandez and Gonzalez-Morales are married to his daughters, and Emmanuel Galdamez is his son. The group allegedly offered smuggling services to other alien smuggling groups that trafficked in people, including the group Singh allegedly led.
The Galdamez organization smuggled immigrants primarily out of Central and South America, Pakistan, and India and into the United States, according to the press release.
Group members would sometimes guide immigrants over the border in New York or Vermont by foot at night, and on other occasions give them directions where to cross. Anderson said the organization would arrange for drivers to pick them up once they crossed the border and take them to Boston, New York, and other locations. If convicted, each person faces up to 15 years imprisonment, Anderson said.
Megan Woolhouse can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.