A Pakistani man accepted a plea deal with the federal government on Wednesday for his role in smuggling dozens of illegal aliens into the U.S. through South and Central America.
In his plea agreement, Sharafat Ali Khan, a Pakistani national residing in Brazil, admitted that he smuggled illegal aliens from Pakistan and Bangladesh to the U.S. between March 2014 and May 2016.
The smuggling operation involved a network of safe houses and facilitators that stretched from South America, traversing the jungles of Colombia and Panama, to various spots on the U.S.-Mexico border.
Khan, 32, was responsible for smuggling at least 81 illegal aliens, according to a federal complaint filed last year.
The investigation into Khan began after March 2014 when special agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement uncovered an alien smuggling organization that was operating in South and Central America to help illegal aliens from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan enter the U.S.
Khan was first identified in July 2015, according to the complaint.
The filing states that Khan charged between $5,000 and $12,000 to facilitate travel from his home base in Brazil to the southern U.S. border. The journey involved travel by bus, foot and airplane and followed the general route: Pakistan – Dubai – Brazil – Peru – Ecuador – Colombia – Panama – Costa Rica – Nicaragua – El Salvador – Guatemala – Mexico – United States.
Six people smuggled by Khan provided information to ICE special agents about the operation.
One Pakistani national apprehended in Pharr, Tex. on May 25, 2015, said that he paid Khan $6,000 to smuggle him into the U.S. The man initially transferred $2,000 to a bank account for Khan in Pakistan. After that, he flew to Brazil and remained in a safe house there for several months before making a three-day trek through the jungles of Colombia. At one point, the man stayed in a safe house operated by a smuggler in Guatemala. There, according to the complaint, the smuggler pointed a gun at Khan’s client.
The man said he was told to refer to Khan as Dr. Nakib throughout the journey.
Another man who entered the U.S. at Otay Mesa, Calif. in Feb. 2015, said he paid Khan $10,000. He was provided fraudulent documents to fly to Brazil. He also traveled through the Colombian jungle with other Indian and Pakistani men who were being smuggled into the U.S.
After arriving in Tapachula, Mexico, Khan told the man to purchase a plane ticket to Tijuana, just south of San Diego.
Khan instructed the man to enter the U.S. on foot “and to raise his hands when he saw U.S. authorities.” Khan also ordered the man to not mention him by name or about his trip.
Several other illegal aliens made similar claims about Khan in interviews with ICE special agents. ICE also used informants to record Khan discussing his smuggling operation.
Khan was extradited to the United States from Qatar on July 13, 2016. He will face sentencing on July 6.