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Human Smuggling/Trafficking
03/31/2008

Arizona motel owners sentenced for using businesses to harbor illegal aliens

ICE-led probe results in criminal and civil forfeitures of more than $1 million

PHOENIX - A federal judge has sentenced the last of the 13 owners and former owners of six motels in Mesa, Ariz., who were indicted after a probe by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) revealed they were using their businesses to harbor illegal aliens in support of organized human smuggling.

U.S. District Judge Frederick J. Martone imposed sentences of probation, fines and forfeiture on the final two defendants in the case March 26. The owners of the motels on Mesa's Main Street were charged in separate indictments with conspiracy to harbor illegal aliens following a nine-month ICE undercover investigation. The combined criminal and civil forfeiture in the cases totaled $1.3 million.

According to the indictments, on numerous occasions the defendants rented rooms to undercover officers posing as human smugglers, with some charging the smugglers higher rates than their ordinary customers. The indictments described how some of the defendants coached the undercover officers on ways to conceal their smuggling activities, advising them to register under false names, rent multiple rooms, and park their vehicles in places that would avoid attracting attention.

MotelDefendantSentenceChargesForfeiture
Kiva Lodge MotelBabulal Patel5 years probationconspiracy to harbor illegal aliens$150,000 (civil and criminal combined)
Gitaben Patel3 years probationmisprision of a felony
HiWay Host MotelAshok R. Patel364 days probation and $500 finemisprision of a felony$150,000 (civil only)
Amarkumar Patel1 year probationaccessory after the fact to illegal entry
Majestic Guest InnAnand B. Bhakta3 years probation and $25,000 fineconspiracy to harbor illegal aliens$300,000 (civil and criminal combined)

 

 

Sunita Bhakta3 years probation and $5,000 finemisprision of a felony
Roadrunner MotelBhupendra Patel5 years probationconspiracy to harbor illegal aliens$250,000 (civil and criminal combined)
Mahduben Patel5 years probationconspiracy to harbor illegal aliens

Westernaire Motel

 

Bharabtai Bhakta5 years probation & $6,000 fineconspiracy to harbor illegal aliens

$200,000 (civil and criminal combined)

 

Mahduben Bhakta5 years probationconspiracy to harbor illegal aliens
Roshan B. Bhakta5 years probation & $10,000 fineconspiracy to harbor illegal aliens
Centebar SuitesPravinkumar Patel2 years probationconspiracy to harbor illegal aliens$250,000 (civil and criminal combined)
Sheilaben Patel2 years probationconspiracy to harbor illegal aliens

 

The criminal probe focusing on the Mesa motels formally began in February 2005 after ICE received several leads from the public regarding possible human smuggling activity at the establishments. Border Patrol agents with U.S. Customs and Border Protection, as well as the Mesa Police Department, assisted ICE in the ensuing investigation.