MIAMI - Annita Devi Gerald, a Guyanese national, pleaded guilty to bringing an alien into the United States for commercial gain following an investigation led by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE's) Office of Investigations in Miami.
Gerald, 52, pleaded guilty on Feb. 16 in Houston before U.S. District Court Judge Lynn Hughes. Gerald was sentenced yesterday and faces a mandatory minimum prison sentence of three years with a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
"Today's guilty plea puts another alien smuggling organizer out of business," said Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Criminal Division. "Traveling the globe seeking people willing to pay for illegal entry into the United States, this defendant sought personal riches in exchange for disregarding the immigration laws of our country."
"ICE targets organizations that try to compromise the integrity of our immigration system for the sake of profit," said ICE Assistant Secretary John Morton. "The network of ICE offices around the world as well as our partnerships with law enforcement agencies, enable ICE to shut down these human smuggling operations."
"My office will continue to work closely with the Department of Justice and ICE to pursue international smugglers who engage in elaborate schemes to import undocumented and fraudulently documented aliens into the United States through Houston and South Texas," said U.S. Attorney José Angel Moreno of the Southern District of Texas.
In July 2008, ICE special agents in Miami obtained information that Gerald was the alleged leader of an alien smuggling organization and initiated an investigation.
Gerald provided assistance to undocumented aliens from India in their efforts to illegally enter the United States. Gerald admitted that she and her co-conspirators prepared letters of invitation for several Indian nationals from a trading and agricultural company affiliated with Gerald. These letters falsely proclaimed the Indian nationals were farming experts whose expertise was needed for a project in Belize. The letters were used to assist the aliens in obtaining Belizean visas that enabled them to board aircraft and transit through numerous countries in route to the United States.
In July 2009, Gerald escorted two Indian nationals on a series of flights from Singapore to Belize. In addition, Gerald admitted to providing lodging for the aliens in Belize while they awaited additional smuggling arrangements including obtaining a Mexican immigration stamp for one alien's passport to facilitate domestic travel in Mexico and arranging for transportation from Belize to Mexico for one of the aliens.
Upon Gerald's direction, one of the aliens was smuggled into Mexico and then into the United States.
On Nov. 17, 2009, Gerald was arrested by ICE special agents in Houston on a criminal complaint charging her with conspiracy to commit alien smuggling.
The investigation was conducted by ICE's Office of Investigations in Miami and Houston, with the critical assistance of the ICE Attaché offices in El Salvador, Ecuador, Brazil, Singapore and Panama, as well as the ICE Office of Intelligence in Washington, D.C. and the Alien Smuggling Interdiction Unit of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) in Washington, D.C. El Salvadoran authorities, particularly the Direción General de Migración y Extranjería (El Salvador Immigration) and the Grupo Especial de Investigaciones Nacionales e Internacionales (El Salvador Police-GEINI) also provided invaluable assistance.
The case was prosecuted by Trial Attorneys Jerry Massie and Jessica Morris of the Criminal Division's Domestic Security Section, with the assistance of Assistant U.S. Attorneys Edward Gallagher and Douglas Davis of the Southern District of Texas.