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September 10, 2020Washington, DC, United StatesHuman Smuggling/Trafficking

ICE, Brazil Federal Police arrest alleged leader of major human smuggling organization

WASHINGTON – The alleged leader of a major human smuggling organization that had smuggled individuals from the Middle East (primarily Iran) into South America, the United States, Canada and Europe was arrested Saturday. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) provided significant assistance to the Brazil Federal Police to arrest Reza Sahami, a dual citizen of Canada and Iran, on human smuggling charges.

Law enforcement encountered Sahami guiding a group of seven Iranian nationals in the city of Assis Brasil, on the border of Brazil and Peru. All seven Iranians possessed fraudulent or altered passports from Israel, Denmark and Canada.

“Sahami has been smuggling criminals across international borders for over 10 years,” said ICE Attaché for Brazil Bolivia Robert Fuentes. “We are grateful to our Brazilian partners for the unwavering efforts not only in this investigation, but in our overall strong partnership in combating transnational criminal organizations. ICE Homeland Security Investigations is committed to disrupting human smuggling networks who undermine our immigration and put countless individuals at risk while doing so.”

Special agents with ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in Brazil led coordination provided by U.S authorities to the Brazilian government. Additional participating agencies included HSI in Lima (Peru) and the Interpol National Central Bureau in Brazil. HSI Brazil collaborated the efforts of HSI Lima as they worked closely with the HSI Human Smuggling Unit, the HSI Liaison to the U.S. Special Operations Command/Biometric Identification Transnational Migration Alert Program, the National Targeting Center – Investigations, and the National Targeting Center Counter Network Division to support the investigation.

HSI Brazil is part of HSI’s International Operations Division and is the Department of Homeland Security’s largest investigative presence overseas. Division personnel serve as liaisons to governments and law enforcement agencies across the globe and work side-by-side with foreign law enforcement on HSI investigations. ICE is the lead U.S. law enforcement agency responsible for fighting human smuggling and human trafficking.