WASHINGTON – A human smuggling ring that helped people from Pakistan and Afghanistan illegally enter the United States by way of Brazil and South and Central America has been exposed as the ring’s Brasilia contact pleaded guilty in federal court in Washington.
Sharafat Ali Khan, 32, who U.S. authorities said is a Pakistani national and permanent resident of Brazil, pleaded guilty to serving as a facilitator for dozens of people from Pakistan who contacted him in Brazil, paid US$5,000 to US$12,000 each, then walked through the Colombian jungle or traveled north by bus, foot and plane, according to court filings.
The general route used by the smuggling operation went from Pakistan to Dubai, Brazil, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Guatemala and Mexico, the Washington Post reported.
The trips he arranged were long, arduous and dangerous, court filings assert. “The average traveler took approximately nine months to get from Brazil all the way to the United States. During the voyage from Brazil through South and Central America, aliens were subjected to harsh conditions that caused a substantial risk of serious bodily injury or death,” the court records stated.
Many, the filings state, traveled to Turbo, Colombia, and from there into Panama’s eastern border where travelers then had to hike through the Darien Gap which was described as “a dangerous, wild tropical forest area” stretching approximately 100 miles that cannot be traveled by vehicles.
Khan faces a statutory maximum of five years in prison. But in a plea deal, both sides agreed to a sentencing range of 24 to 46 months.
Khan, who also used the pseudonym “Dr. Nakib,” was arrested July 14 in Washington D.C. after being extradited from Qatar, according to court documents.
The six immigrants, identified only by initials in court filings, are now in deportation proceedings in New York and Baltimore.