Immigrant smuggling ring broken up

Friday, December 12, 2008 | 4:40 p.m. CST

PHOENIX (AP) — Authorities say they have busted an immigrant smuggling ring that specialized in driving undocumented immigrants from the human trafficking hub of Phoenix to nearly two dozen states, including Missouri.

Once other smugglers brought immigrants across the border, the specialty smuggling ring would charge $700 per person for driving their customers to other states, many of them on the East Coast.

Authorities say the ring had a constant rotation of four to six vans, each carrying 10 to 15 immigrants, in transit each week. Each van generated $7,000 to $8,000 per trip.

Twenty-one of the 35 people who were indicted on criminal charges in the scheme have been arrested.

Arizona is the busiest entry point for undocumented immigrants coming through Mexico, and Phoenix's proximity to the border has made it the nation's busiest smuggling hub.

Authorities say the states where the immigrants were driven to were Alabama, California, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Utah, Virginia and Washington. No city locations were available.


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