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Human Smuggling/Trafficking
01/07/2010

Ringleader of large-scale operation to transport illegal aliens sentenced to prison

LAKE CHARLES, La. - A Louisiana woman that was the ringleader of a large-scale operation to transport illegal aliens was sentenced to over four years in federal prison on Jan. 7 following an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

Joan Comeaux, 55, was sentenced by United States District Judge Patricia Minaldi to 51 months in prison. Comeaux was indicted in August 2008 and pleaded guilty in October 2008 to conspiracy to transport illegal aliens. Comeaux admitted that she conspired with her co-defendants to transport illegal aliens from the Texas and Mexico border to other locations within Texas and that she knew the aliens came into the United States illegally and that the transportation of these illegal aliens was with the intent to further their unlawful presence in the United States. Comeaux further admitted that she instructed her co-defendants on the procedure to transport the illegal aliens and along with her sister, Carolyn Metcalf, transported illegal aliens. Since 2005, Comeaux and her co-defendants were involved in a conspiracy that resulted in the organization transporting hundreds of illegal aliens on a regular basis.

"This case is a perfect example of the outstanding cooperation between ICE and our sister law enforcement agencies," said Michael A. Holt, special agent-in-charge of ICE's Office of Investigations in New Orleans. Because of positive interagency cooperation, human trafficking and smuggling criminal organizations are discovering how difficult it is for them to hide their illegal activities from authorities "We are dedicated to identifying and dismantling these types of illicit operations wherever and whenever we find them."

This case was investigated by the ICE's Office of Investigations in Lake Charles, FBI, U.S. Border Patrol, Louisiana State Police, Sulphur Police Department and the Calcasieu Parish Sheriff's Office.

Assistant United States Attorney James T. McManus prosecuted the case.