Special agents with the Phoenix office of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) took part in a successful international effort to disrupt a major human smuggling ring operating out of Brazil, federal authorities announced Monday. Those being smuggled were destined to be brought illegally into the United States.
Operation Blood Ties resulted in the execution of 21 search warrants and eight arrests last week in San Paulo and Minas Gerais on the eastern coastline of Brazil. Among those arrested on Brazilian federal charges of human smuggling and operating a criminal enterprise were citizens of Lebanon, Bangladesh, and Brazil.
According to the announcement, HSI Brasilia and HSI Phoenix led U.S. investigative efforts with the Brazilian Federal Police and the Extraterritorial Criminal Travel Strike Force (ECT) program into the ring which was smuggling “scores of individuals from Bangladesh and other countries in South Asia” into Brazil.
From there a variety of routes were used to bring people into the United States without going through the proper immigration process. Many of those people tried to enter through Arizona, capturing the attention of the local HSI office.
HSI serves as the principal investigative arm of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and its special agents are responsible for investigating transnational crime and threats. After special agents with HSI-Phoenix teamed up with HSI Brasilia on an earlier human smuggling operation, they turned their attention to the conspirators involved in the ring taken down last week in Operation Blood Ties.
“Transnational criminal organizations involved with human smuggling are a continuing threat to border security, public safety and national security, but today through our strong domestic and international partnerships, we were able to significantly impact their network,” said Scott Brown, special agent in charge for HSI Phoenix.
Meanwhile, HSI Brasilia Acting Attaché Patrick Chen expressed gratitude to the Brazilian Federal Police for their continued partnership in combating transnational criminal organizations.
“This successful operation shows the importance of international collaboration when it comes to disrupting human smuggling networks who undermine our immigration system and put countless lives at risk while doing so,” Chen said.
There are more than 7,100 special agents assigned to HSI offices in 220 cities in the United States and 86 overseas locations in 54 countries. The agency’s international presence represents DHS’s largest investigative law enforcement presence abroad and one of the largest international footprints in U.S. law enforcement.
ECT is a partnership between HSI and the U.S. Justice Department – Criminal Division’s Human Rights and Special Prosecutions Section. The ECT program focuses on human smuggling networks that may present national security or public safety risks, or present grave humanitarian concerns.