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Human Smuggling/Trafficking

Member of international alien smuggling conspiracy sentenced to 46 months in prison

CAMDEN, N.J. — A main operator of an international scheme responsible for smuggling into the United States hundreds of illegal aliens from Brazil, India and elsewhere was sentenced Thursday to 46 months in prison.

The case was investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

Nacip Teotonio Pires, aka "Ze Maria," aka "Baraso," 48, of Newark, N.J., previously pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Joseph H. Rodriguez to a charge of participating in a conspiracy to bring aliens into the United States illegally.

In December 2011, co-conspirators Rubens DaSilva, aka "Diogo Oliveira," 40, of Haverhill, Mass., and Claudinei Pereira Mota, 35, of Newark, pleaded guilty before Judge Rodriguez to conspiracy to bring aliens into the country illegally. A fourth member of the smuggling ring, Francismar Da Conceicao, aka "Alex," 37, of Hillside, N.J., also pleaded guilty to a similar charge a few days earlier. A fifth defendant, Sanderlei Alves DaCruz, aka "Kauan," aka "Kauan Santana," aka "Sidney Gomes Figueredo," 33, of Houston, Texas, was indicted June 21, 2012; his case is pending. A sixth defendant, Priscilla (last name unknown), aka "Clema Aparacida Lopes," of Long Branch, N.J., remains at large.

According to court documents and statements made in court, from January 2008 through June 2011, the defendants conspired with each other and others to bring aliens into the United States illegally from Brazil, India and elsewhere as part of an elaborate for-profit alien smuggling scheme that involved co-conspirators in New Jersey, Massachusetts, Texas and elsewhere. As part of the scheme, the defendants arranged, facilitated and monitored the travel of customers along two primary smuggling routes – the first of which included travel through Central America and across the international border between Mexico and the United States. The second route included travel through St. Maarten and the Bahamas, followed by a series of boat trips to either Puerto Rico or the Florida coast.

Using various law enforcement investigative techniques, special agents learned that the defendants charged customers of the alien smuggling scheme from $13,000 to more than $25,000 – depending on the route the customer used and whether the customer paid in advance or in installments after arriving in the United States.

Many of the customers of the scheme were young women from Brazil, most of whom agreed to repay part of their smuggling debt after arriving in the United States by working as dancers in strip clubs in Newark and elsewhere.

In addition to the prison term, Judge Rodriguez sentenced Pires to three years of supervised release.