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Human Smuggling/Trafficking
02/06/2009

ICE investigations lead to human smuggling sentences in Canadian court

TORONTO - Two members of a human smuggling organization operating between Windsor, Ontario and Detroit were sentenced Feb. 5 in Canada's Superior Court of Justice following an Immigration and Customs Enforcement investigation.

"These smugglers jeopardized human lives for personal profit. Their criminal business and personal greed resulted in the loss of a life here," said Brian M. Moskowitz, special agent in charge of the ICE Office of Investigations in Detroit. "ICE will continue to work closely with its law enforcement partners on both sides of the border to see that those individuals and organizations involved in this ruthless enterprise are held accountable for the suffering and loss of life they cause."

Maitham Alzehrani of Windsor, Ontario was sentenced to 4 ½ years in Canadian prison for conspiring with Albanian smugglers to sneak an Albanian mother and son into the United States.

Alzehrani was involved in the planning to smuggle a 23 year-old Albanian man and his mother from Windsor into Detroit via Jet Ski by crossing the Detroit River. The plan went awry when the Jet Ski capsized and both fell into the river. The man drowned but his mother was able to make it back to shore on the Canadian side.

Superior Court Justice Anne Molloy said Alzehrani expressed remorse in the death which was a mitigating factor in his sentencing. Fran Gashaj, also of Windsor, had no role in the Jet Ski incident but was tried last year with Alzehrani in other smuggling cases. A jury found both guilty after a five-week trial.

Gashaj was convicted to 4 years for his role in a botched smuggling attempt of eight Chinese nationals who were abandoned in a trailer in suburban Detroit.

The joint investigation utilized undercover officers from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the ICE Office of Investigation in Detroit to conduct a controlled delivery of aliens from Canada, through Michigan to New York. RCMP also initiated a wire intercept of Alzehrani and other targets in the Toronto area according to the ICE investigation. The Detroit Office of Investigation has worked with the U.S. Attorney to successfully complete prosecutions of all U.S. members of the organization while Canadian prosecutions continue.