- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 4, 2004

Federal agents have arrested an Egyptian national on charges stemming from his suspected role in an international conspiracy to smuggle aliens into the United States.

Ashraf Ahmed Abdallah, 34, was arrested Friday at Miami International Airport, during a stop in his travels from Ecuador to Egypt, said Michael J. Garcia, assistant secretary of the Department of Homeland Security.

Mr. Garcia, who heads U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), said a five-count indictment returned under seal by a federal grand jury in Washington on Dec. 21, 2001, and made public Friday, charged that Mr. Abdallah conspired to bring unauthorized aliens into the country between June 2001 and October 2001.

The indictment charged Mr. Abdallah — who returned to Egypt in 2002 — with one count of conspiracy to commit alien smuggling and four counts of aiding and abetting an attempt to bring unauthorized aliens into the country for financial gain. Mr. Garcia said the investigation of Mr. Abdallah’s suspected smuggling operation continues.

“The arrest of Abdallah is a landmark achievement for the Department of Homeland Security and for ICE,” Mr. Garcia said. “Among the ranks of international human smuggling kingpins, Abdallah was one of ICE’s most wanted targets in the world.

“ICE agents tracked this individual around the globe for years and ultimately were able to secure his arrest. The fact that Abdallah is no longer smuggling individuals from special-interest nations into the United States makes America a safer nation,” he said.

ICE officials said Mr. Abdallah’s arrest arose from an investigation in which he reportedly was identified as the principal in an operation to smuggle aliens into the United States, particularly citizens of Egypt and its neighboring countries, for commercial advantage and private financial gain.

The indictment said Mr. Abdallah and his associates directed the migrants to travel to Brazil, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and other Latin American countries, and from there to Guatemala, the base of the smuggling operation.

According to the indictment, Mr. Abdallah would then stage the migrants in Guatemala and have them transported by his associates through Mexico for illegal entry into the United States. It said Mr. Abdallah demanded the payment of thousands of dollars from aliens and their families as a smuggling fee.

The indictment also said he kept the aliens’ passports to guarantee payment of the final installment of their smuggling fee upon their arrival in the United States.

ICE agents from the Washington, Mexico City, Guatemala, Ecuador and Madrid offices were involved in the investigation and arrest. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Laura Ingersoll and Jonathan Malis in Washington and Justice Department trial attorneys John Scott and Anne Rodriguez-Jones.

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