WASHINGTON: A 61-year-old Indian has been jailed for five years in the US over charges of illegally helping foreigners, including a majority of Indians, enter into the country, the US Department of Justice has said.
Yadvinder Singh Sandhu pleaded guilty early this year, saying he personally assisted around 400 people to unlawfully enter the US between 2013 and 2015.
The smuggling carried out by him resulted in at least one death and endangered the lives of many, the Department of Justice said.
Mr Sandhu, charged in an indictment returned by a federal grand jury in the District of Puerto Rico on March 15, 2017, used multiple aliases including Yadvinder Singh Bhamba, Bhupinder Kumar, Rajinder Singh, Robert Howard Scott and Atkins Lawson Howard.
According to admissions in his plea agreement, since 2013, he had a leadership role in a human smuggling conspiracy operating out of the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Puerto Rico, India and elsewhere.
He also oversaw and directed co-conspirators operating out of the Caribbean.
Mr Sandhu and other members involved the conspiracy made flight arrangements for foreign nationals to travel from India through other countries including Thailand, the United Arab Emirates, Argentina, Iran, Panama, Venezuela, Belize and Haiti to the Dominican Republic.
The Dominican Republic was used as a staging area, where foreigners were housed before being transported to the US.
The organisation brought groups of foreigners from the Dominican Republic to Puerto Rico or Florida by boat.
They were then picked up by co-conspirators and taken to stash houses until flights could be arranged to California, New York, or elsewhere.
Mr Sandhu and others arranged for fraudulent identifications for some migrants to use in the US, prosecutors alleged.
The boat trips from the Dominican Republic to the US were perilous as old, damaged, cracked, unlicensed, overcrowded and unsafe boats were used to make the journey, they said.
A foreign national died in a boat on his way to the US, the Department of Justice alleged.
At times, the smugglers would take passports from the foreigners during their journeys, physically assault them and threaten their families to collect money.
Foreigners paid between $30,000 and $85,000 to be transported from India to the US.