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Bust shows gaps in U.S.-Canada border

14 indicted for smuggling Indians, Pakistanis into United States

From Brian Todd
CNN

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An infrared image shows what authorities say are immigrants getting into a vehicle near the Canadian border.

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- As debate rages over securing the U.S. border with Mexico, authorities announced Wednesday that they had dismantled a human-smuggling ring that was running illegal immigrants into the United States through Canada.

The ring was responsible for importing dozens of Indian and Pakistani immigrants, according to U.S. and Canadian authorities.

At least 50 illegal immigrants have been arrested.

Fourteen U.S. and Canadian residents have been indicted by a U.S. grand jury on charges related to human smuggling, officials said. Two suspects are still at large.

Kavel Multani, 46, a dual Canadian-Indian citizen who allegedly oversaw the Vancouver, British Columbia-based ring, was charged with nine counts of smuggling and transporting illegal aliens.

Authorities say the immigrants, some of them children, were first flown on commercial flights to Toronto, Ontario, using forged documents.

"The aliens were charged as much as $35,000 apiece to be smuggled from their home countries through Canada to the U.S.," said Leigh Winchell, special agent in charge of Seattle investigations for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Once in the United States, the immigrants were put up in hotels in Washington state until arrangements were made to move them to other U.S. cities, Winchell said.

Still pictures from infrared video released by authorities show people being led through a wooded area near the Canadian border with Washington. The people in the photos are seen crouching by the side of a road before being picked up by a vehicle.

Authorities have found no connection to terrorism, but they said the arrests raise concerns about the vulnerability of the U.S.-Canadian border.

Wednesday's arrests were the result of a yearlong, largely undercover investigation by U.S. Homeland Security authorities and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

The smuggling ring first drew authorities' attention in January 2005 after border-patrol agents got a tip that three men in Oroville, a border town in north-central Washington, had purchased maps of the border and asked about law enforcement activities there.

Though immigration and border security have sparked intense debate and several congressional proposals for reform, most of the focus has been on Mexican immigrants and the roughly 2,000-mile border the U.S. shares with its neighbor to the south.

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