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Human Smuggling/Trafficking

Uzbek national pleads guilty to racketeering conspiracy

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - An Uzbek national pleaded guilty in federal court Tuesday to his role in criminal enterprise that employed illegal aliens in 14 states and subjected them to deplorable living conditions and threats of deportation. This guilty plea resulted from an investigation conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

Jakhongir Kakhkharov, 30, a national of Uzbekistan, pleaded guilty March 16 before U.S. District Judge Ortrie D. Smith, Western District of Missouri, to the racketeering charge contained in a Jan. 7, 2010, superseding indictment.

Kakhkharov admitted that between July 2007 and January 2008 he participated in a criminal enterprise involving mail fraud, money laundering, inducing aliens to illegally enter the United States, and harboring illegal aliens.

The federal RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act) indictment alleges an extensive and profitable criminal enterprise in which hundreds of illegal aliens were employed at hotels and other businesses across the country. The criminal enterprise allegedly used false information to acquire fraudulent work visas for these foreign workers.

Kakhkharov operated Midwest Management, Inc., an entity that the criminal enterprise used to launder its illegal proceeds and avoid paying taxes. Kakhkharov admitted to laundering $634,192 in illegal proceeds between July and December 2007. Kakhkharov further admitted that he used apartments in the Kansas City, Mo., area to house illegal aliens between July 2007 and January 2008.

Co-defendant Alexandru Frumusache, 24, a Moldovan national residing in Kansas City, Kan., pleaded guilty on Oct. 7 to forced labor trafficking. Between September 2008 and April 2009, Frumusache aided and abetted others in a scheme to cause foreign workers (including citizens from the Philippines, the Dominican Republic, and Jamaica) to believe that they would be deported, or their H2B work visas would be cancelled, or they or their families members would be penalized with a $5,000 to $10,000 fee, if the workers failed or refused to work where and when they were ordered to work.

Frumusache also admitted that he aided and abetted others in subjecting the foreign workers to terrible living conditions without food, furniture, or appropriate sleeping arrangements. They assigned more foreign workers than each living space allowed and the foreign workers were subjected to sleeping on the floor or mattresses. They utilized the housing arrangement as an additional way to profit off of the foreign workers by overcharging them in rent and automatically withdrawing the fees from the foreign workers' pay checks.

"This criminal enterprise lured workers to the U.S. with promises of legitimate jobs, only to subject them to deplorable living conditions and threaten them with deportation if they didn't do as they were told," said Gilbert Trill, assistant special agent-in-charge of the ICE Office of Investigations in Kansas City. "ICE is committed to targeting and dismantling international human trafficking rings that disregard our nation's immigration laws in the name of profit."

Under federal statutes, Kakhkharov and Frumusache each face up to 20 years in federal prison without parole, plus a fine up to $250,000 and an order of restitution.

This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Gene Porter, William L. Meiners and Cynthia L. Cordes, Western District of Missouri, and Trial Attorney Jim Felte with the U.S. Department of Justice's Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit. ICE was assisted in the investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Department of Labor, OIG - Office of Labor Racketeering and Fraud Investigations, IRS-Criminal Investigation, the Kansas Department of Revenue - Criminal Investigations, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and the Independence, Mo., Police Department.