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US Arrests Two Cubans for Alleged Human Smuggling

United States Arrests Two Cubans for Alleged Human Smuggling

Officials say suspects tried to smuggle others into U.S. through Puerto Rico

By Eric Green
Washington File Staff Writer

Washington -- U.S. authorities have arrested two Cuban nationals who allegedly tried to smuggle seven other Cubans into the United States.

In an October 2 statement, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency said the two Cubans, Carlos Ozete-Crespo and Rafael Fleitas-Rojo, are in U.S. federal custody for human smuggling. ICE said the seven Cubans were dropped off near Boquerón Beach in the vicinity of Cabo Rojo, Puerto Rico. U.S. law enforcement agents identified Ozete-Crespo and Fleitas-Rojo as the alleged captains of the smuggling venture. ICE is the investigative arm of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

ICE said disrupting and dismantling human-smuggling and trafficking rings has been a top priority for the agency since it was established in March 2003, because of the potential threat that these criminal organizations pose both to U.S. national security and public safety. ICE said its agents arrested more than 1,630 human smugglers in the United States in fiscal year 2004 (October 1, 2003, through September 30, 2004).

Lydia St. John-Mellado, acting special agent-in-charge of ICE investigations in Puerto Rico, said: "Smugglers who think that Puerto Rico is an easy gateway to the continental United States are sorely mistaken.”

The ICE special agent added that the United States encourages people who want to come to the United States "to use legal means to do so and not to risk their lives by dealing with unscrupulous smugglers."

The U.S. State Department defines human smuggling as the "facilitation, transportation, attempted transportation or illegal entry of a person across an international border, in violation of one or more countries' laws, either clandestinely or through deception, such as the use of fraudulent documents."

The State Department said in a January 1 fact sheet that human smuggling is conducted in order "to obtain a financial or other material benefit for the smuggler, although financial gain or material benefit are not necessarily elements of the crime."

According to the fact sheet, human smuggling is generally done with the consent of the person being smuggled, who often pays large sums of money to be illegally transported. Once in the country of their final destination, people who were smuggled are generally left to their own devices.

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