Nileshkumar Patel (41) and Harsad Mehta (65), both of India, were arrested in New Jersey in connection with a plot to smuggle Indian into the U.S. on commercial airlines.
Patel and Mehta were arrested by special agents of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) upon their arrival at Newark Liberty International Airport on October 22.
According to the complaint filed in court:
Homeland Security Investigations received information that a smuggling operation run by Patel and Mehta was attempting to find methods to illegally smuggle foreign nationals from India into the United States. The investigation revealed that the smuggling organization recruited Indian nationals and others to pay fees in exchange for passage to the United States.
Beginning in April 2014, an undercover law enforcement officer posing as a smuggler began meeting with Patel and Mehta in Bangkok, Thailand. Patel and Mehta stated that they were involved in the smuggling business and had multiple Indian nationals that they were looking to smuggle into the United States. Mehta and Patel agreed to transport the Indian nationals from India to Thailand, at which point the undercover law enforcement officer would presumably use contacts to smuggle them into the United States via commercial airline flights. Patel and Mehta agreed to wire a $10,000 down payment for each individual to be smuggled into the United States and to pay a balance of tens of thousands of dollars for each individual once the foreign nationals arrived in the United States.
Over the ensuing months, Patel and Mehta arranged for six Indian nationals to be brought to Thailand for smuggling into the United States via Newark Liberty International Airport.
The conspiracy charge carries a maximum potential penalty of 10 years in prison. Each substantive charge of smuggling carries a maximum potential penalty of five years in prison.
The charges and allegations contained in the complaint are merely accusations, and the defendants are considered innocent unless and until proven guilty.