Description: Seattle, Washington criminal defense lawyer represented Defendant charged with Conspiracy to Transport and Harbor Certain Aliens by taking more than $500,000 as a key member of a smuggling ring bringing hundreds of Indian Nationals across the border from Canada and then to locations in the mid-west and beyond.
“Over a four-year period, Rajinder Pal Singh arranged for more than 800 people to be smuggled into the U.S. across the northern border and into Washington State,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Tessa M. Gorman. “This conduct was not just a security risk for our country, it also subjected those smuggled to security and safety risks during the often weeks-long smuggling route from India to the United States. Mr. Singh’s participation in this conspiracy preyed upon the Indian Nationals’ hopes for a better life in the United States, while saddling those smuggled with crushing debt of as much as $70,000.”
“Mr. Singh spent years illegally smuggling hundreds of Indian nationals into this country; all to make a quick profit,” said Special Agent in Charge Robert Hammer, who oversees HSI operations in the Pacific Northwest. “Fortunately, through a committed HSI investigative team, complemented by U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the U.S. Attorney’s Office, that scheme has come to an end. Mr. Singh crushed the dreams of so many who quickly found themselves drowning in debt to their smuggler and unable to realize the life they sought in this country. Mr. Singh won’t need to order up any more Uber rides for the next three years.”
According to records filed in the case, as early as July 2018, Singh and his coconspirators used the ride share app Uber to transport people who had illegally crossed the border from Canada to the Seattle area. Those records detail how trips beginning near the border in the early hours of the morning, would be split between different rides. For example, one Uber trip would be from the border to Sea-Tac airport, and then minutes later the second Uber trip would be from a nearby airport hotel to an address in Lacey, Washington, owned by Singh’s spouse. All told, from mid-2018 to May 2022, Singh arranged more than 600 trips involving the transportation of Indian Nationals who had been illegally smuggled into the U.S.
Once the non-citizens had been smuggled into the U.S., Singh coordinated with other coconspirators who, using one-way vehicle rentals, would transport these individuals to their ultimate destinations outside Washington State.
Singh and his coconspirators used sophisticated means to launder the organization’s illicit proceeds. For example, on one instance, Singh and his coconspirators arranged for smuggling fees to be sent via Hawala from India to New York. Once the smuggling fee was received in cash from the New York Hawala, these funds were converted into a check, mailed to a coconspirator in Kentucky, and then were washed through multiple financial accounts. In the plea agreement, Singh admitted that the purpose of this money movement was to obscure the illicit nature of these funds, i.e., money laundering.
The smuggling scheme has been underway since at least 2018. It slowed during the pandemic when Canada was not admitting non-citizens. However as pandemic restrictions were lifted, the smuggling scheme became active again. In all, the investigation estimates that between July 2018, and April 2022, the 17 Uber accounts tied to this smuggling ring ran up more than $80,000 in charges.
In addition to the search of the home in Lacey, law enforcement searched two of Singh’s residences in California. During the search of one of his homes in Elk Grove, California, investigators found about $45,000 in cash as well as counterfeit identity documents. They also found copies of falsified documents that had been submitted to immigration judges in Washington during bond hearings for non-citizens who had been smuggled into the United States by Singh and his coconspirators, but who had been arrested by immigration authorities after illegally crossing the border.
Singh has agreed to forfeit cash and other personal property seized during the search of his residences, as well as a money judgement of $500,000 which represents proceeds he obtained from his criminal scheme.
Both sides agreed to recommend that Singh serve 45 months in prison. Singh is not legally present in the United States and will likely be deported following his prison term.
The investigation was led by Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) with assistance from U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Uber assisted with the investigation shortly before the arrest in this case.
The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Joe Silvio.
Conspiracy to Transport and Harbor Certain Aliens for Profit - 8:1324(a)(1)(A)(v)(I), (ii), and (iii), and 1324(a)(1)(B)(i).
(a) Criminal penalties
(A) Any person who—
(i) knowing that a person is an alien, brings to or attempts to bring to the United States in any manner whatsoever such person at a place other than a designated port of entry or place other than as designated by the Commissioner, regardless of whether such alien has received prior official authorization to come to, enter, or reside in the United States and regardless of any future official action which may be taken with respect to such alien;
(ii) knowing or in reckless disregard of the fact that an alien has come to, entered, or remains in the United States in violation of law, transports, or moves or attempts to transport or move such alien within the United States by means of transportation or otherwise, in furtherance of such violation of law;
(iii) knowing or in reckless disregard of the fact that an alien has come to, entered, or remains in the United States in violation of law, conceals, harbors, or shields from detection, or attempts to conceal, harbor, or shield from detection, such alien in any place, including any building or any means of transportation;
(iv) encourages or induces an alien to come to, enter, or reside in the United States, knowing or in reckless disregard of the fact that such coming to, entry, or residence is or will be in violation of law; or
(I) engages in any conspiracy to commit any of the preceding acts, or
(II) aids or abets the commission of any of the preceding acts,
shall be punished as provided in subparagraph (B).
(B) A person who violates subparagraph (A) shall, for each alien in respect to whom such a violation occurs—
(i) in the case of a violation of subparagraph (A)(i) or (v)(I) or in the case of a violation of subparagraph (A)(ii), (iii), or (iv) in which the offense was done for the purpose of commercial advantage or private financial gain, be fined under title 18, imprisoned not more than 10 years, or both;
(ii) in the case of a violation of subparagraph (A)(ii), (iii), (iv), or (v)(II), be fined under title 18, imprisoned not more than 5 years, or both;
(iii) in the case of a violation of subparagraph (A)(i), (ii), (iii), (iv), or (v) during and in relation to which the person causes serious bodily injury (as defined in section 1365 of title 18) to, or places in jeopardy the life of, any person, be fined under title 18, imprisoned not more than 20 years, or both; and
(iv) in the case of a violation of subparagraph (A)(i), (ii), (iii), (iv), or (v) resulting in the death of any person, be punished by death or imprisoned for any term of years or for life, fined under title 18, or both.
(C) It is not a violation of clauses  (ii) or (iii) of subparagraph (A), or of clause (iv) of subparagraph (A) except where a person encourages or induces an alien to come to or enter the United States, for a religious denomination having a bona fide nonprofit, religious organization in the United States, or the agents or officers of such denomination or organization, to encourage, invite, call, allow, or enable an alien who is present in the United States to perform the vocation of a minister or missionary for the denomination or organization in the United States as a volunteer who is not compensated as an employee, notwithstanding the provision of room, board, travel, medical assistance, and other basic living expenses, provided the minister or missionary has been a member of the denomination for at least one year.
(2) Any person who, knowing or in reckless disregard of the fact that an alien has not received prior official authorization to come to, enter, or reside in the United States, brings to or attempts to bring to the United States in any manner whatsoever, such alien, regardless of any official action which may later be taken with respect to such alien shall, for each alien in respect to whom a violation of this paragraph occurs—
(A) be fined in accordance with title 18 or imprisoned not more than one year, or both; or
(B) in the case of—
(i) an offense committed with the intent or with reason to believe that the alien unlawfully brought into the United States will commit an offense against the United States or any State punishable by imprisonment for more than 1 year,
(ii) an offense done for the purpose of commercial advantage or private financial gain, or
(iii) an offense in which the alien is not upon arrival immediately brought and presented to an appropriate immigration officer at a designated port of entry,
be fined under title 18 and shall be imprisoned, in the case of a first or second violation of subparagraph (B)(iii), not more than 10 years, in the case of a first or second violation of subparagraph (B)(i) or (B)(ii), not less than 3 nor more than 10 years, and for any other violation, not less than 5 nor more than 15 years.
(A) Any person who, during any 12-month period, knowingly hires for employment at least 10 individuals with actual knowledge that the individuals are aliens described in subparagraph (B) shall be fined under title 18 or imprisoned for not more than 5 years, or both.
(B) An alien described in this subparagraph is an alien who—
(i) is an unauthorized alien (as defined in section 1324a(h)(3) of this title), and
(ii) has been brought into the United States in violation of this subsection.
(4) In the case of a person who has brought aliens into the United States in violation of this subsection, the sentence otherwise provided for may be increased by up to 10 years if—
(A) the offense was part of an ongoing commercial organization or enterprise;
(B) aliens were transported in groups of 10 or more; and
(i) aliens were transported in a manner that endangered their lives; or
(ii) the aliens presented a life-threatening health risk to people in the United States.
(b) Seizure and forfeiture
(1) In general
Any conveyance, including any vessel, vehicle, or aircraft, that has been or is being used in the commission of a violation of subsection (a), the gross proceeds of such violation, and any property traceable to such conveyance or proceeds, shall be seized and subject to forfeiture.
(2) Applicable procedures
Seizures and forfeitures under this subsection shall be governed by the provisions of chapter 46 of title 18 relating to civil forfeitures, including section 981(d) of such title, except that such duties as are imposed upon the Secretary of the Treasury under the customs laws described in that section shall be performed by such officers, agents, and other persons as may be designated for that purpose by the Attorney General.
(3) Prima facie evidence in determinations of violationsIn determining whether a violation of subsection (a) has occurred, any of the following shall be prima facie evidence that an alien involved in the alleged violation had not received prior official authorization to come to, enter, or reside in the United States or that such alien had come to, entered, or remained in the United States in violation of law:
(A) Records of any judicial or administrative proceeding in which that alien’s status was an issue and in which it was determined that the alien had not received prior official authorization to come to, enter, or reside in the United States or that such alien had come to, entered, or remained in the United States in violation of law.
(B) Official records of the Service or of the Department of State showing that the alien had not received prior official authorization to come to, enter, or reside in the United States or that such alien had come to, entered, or remained in the United States in violation of law.
(C) Testimony, by an immigration officer having personal knowledge of the facts concerning that alien’s status, that the alien had not received prior official authorization to come to, enter, or reside in the United States or that such alien had come to, entered, or remained in the United States in violation of law.
(c) Authority to arrest
No officer or person shall have authority to make any arrests for a violation of any provision of this section except officers and employees of the Service designated by the Attorney General, either individually or as a member of a class, and all other officers whose duty it is to enforce criminal laws.
(d) Admissibility of videotaped witness testimony
Notwithstanding any provision of the Federal Rules of Evidence, the videotaped (or otherwise audiovisually preserved) deposition of a witness to a violation of subsection (a) who has been deported or otherwise expelled from the United States, or is otherwise unable to testify, may be admitted into evidence in an action brought for that violation if the witness was available for cross examination and the deposition otherwise complies with the Federal Rules of Evidence.
(e) Outreach program
The Secretary of Homeland Security, in consultation with the Attorney General and the Secretary of State, as appropriate, shall develop and implement an outreach program to educate the public in the United States and abroad about the penalties for bringing in and harboring aliens in violation of this section.
Conspiracy to Commit Money Laundering - 18:1957 and 1956(h).
Outcome: Defendant was sentenced to 45 months in prison.