By: Cole Lauterbach | The Center Square
A group of nearly two dozen people allegedly created a human smuggling operation fueled by recruiting juveniles on a popular social media platform to smuggle illegal foreign nationals over the nation’s southern border.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office Arizona District announced the unsealing of 13 indictments charging 22 people with “Conspiracy to Transport Illegal Aliens for Profit.”
The charges announced on Aug. 22 allege a “human smuggling coordinator” would use social media posts on Snapchat and elsewhere to recruit young Arizonans as drivers for their operation. Once contact was established, the recruiter would make arrangements in messenger programs to coordinate the illegal transport. The office said in its release that law enforcement identified the defendants via cell phone data and their social media accounts.
To attract juveniles, the suspects would glamorize the smuggling with the prospect of making large sums of money and little risk of arrest.
Facing charges are Ramon Moreno-Lopez, Mauricio Andrade-Garcia, Juan Ausencio-Avendano, Josiah Gomez, Jalen Harris, Ruben Ibarra, Dominic Leos, Jose Molina, Keyani Perez, Armando Ramirez, Fabian Rivera, Jose Sarabia, Arnoldo Soto and others not named in the release.
They face up to 10 years in prison, a $250,000 fine and up to three years of supervised release.