US prosecutors allege smugglers put migrants in bags and empty water tanks

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. authorities on Tuesday unveiled indictments over a lucrative human smuggling operation that allegedly involved hauling migrants in bags and water tanks from the U.S.-Mexico border, as the Biden administration cracked down on groups feeding a record number of immigrants. border crossings.

Eight people, most of them US citizens, have been indicted for their roles in the smuggling of hundreds of people, some hidden in wooden crates on poorly ventilated trailers, according to US officials and related court documents. Six other conspirators were cited in the court record.

The indictments are part of a broader effort by US President Joe Biden’s administration to disrupt smuggling networks with border arrests of nearly two million people in the current fiscal year, which began last October.

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US prosecutors identified Ermenia Serrano Piedra, 31, a Texas resident known as “Boss Lady,” as the leader of the operation, which they said made at least millions of dollars.

Cyrano Piedra deposited more than $1.3 million in two bank accounts between December 2017 and August 2021, but only reported $120,000 to financial institutions, prosecutors allege in a preliminary note disclosed Tuesday. Cyrano Piedra’s attorney is not listed in the US Court Records Database.

At a news conference in Washington on Tuesday, US Justice Department and Department of Homeland Security officials said the alleged smugglers have no regard for human lives and are only interested in profits.

“They are becoming increasingly entangled with cartels and there is growing evidence of abuse, exploitation and violence they are committing against immigrants,” said Jun Tian, ​​deputy secretary of the Department of Homeland Security. They acted for so long as if they were getting away with it.”

In June, 53 immigrants died after being trapped in a sweltering trailer in San Antonio during a botched smuggling attempt. Four men, including the alleged driver, were charged in that incident. Read more

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(Ted Hesson Report) in Washington. Additional reporting by Christina Cook in San Francisco. Editing by Micah Rosenberg and Jonathan Otis

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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