Seattle/ Crime & Emergencies
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Published on May 25, 2024
Two Suspected in Alleged U.S.-Canada Border Human Smuggling Ring Charged After Seattle Sting OperationSource: Library of Congress

Two individuals allegedly connected to a perilous human smuggling operation across the U.S.-Canada border have been collared by the feds. Jesus Ortiz-Plata from Oregon and Juan Pablo Cuellar Medina from Washington are facing charges after a sting operation in Seattle, as reported by U.S. Attorney Tessa M. Gorman's office.

Law enforcement officials tracked down the suspects following a detailed probe by the Homeland Security Investigation's Border Security Enforcement Team. During the arrest, they discovered three non-citizens believed to have been smuggled into the States. The men, taking in a brief moment of fresh air, had apparently been transported perilously locked inside freight cars. In a statement obtained by the U.S. Attorney's Office, Gorman highlighted hazards such as lack of ventilation and potential injuries from shifting cargo.

Investigators first caught wind of this smuggling scheme when a phone number linked to Ortiz-Plata consistently surfaced in interviews with illegal border crossers since late 2022. Upon securing a court order to track the cell phone, they observed Ortiz-Plata's movements, which ultimately led them to an Everett apartment where Medina, the second suspect, resided. Both were arrested after Ortiz-Plata left with three men, whom he had allegedly aided in crossing the border by either freight train cars or by foot.

Both suspects are staring down the barrel of hefty penalties. They've been charged with conspiracy to commit illegal transportation of a non-citizen for private financial gain, a crime fetching up to ten years in prison and a $250,000 fine, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office. Though these allegations loom large, it's important to recall the men have yet to be found guilty in the eyes of the law.

The case continues to unravel, with Homeland Security Investigations taking the lead, aided by the U.S. Border Patrol and the Border Patrol Air and Marine Group. Assistant United States Attorney Celia Lee is handling the prosecution, promising that justice will be pursued with the same fervor and diligence that marked the arrest of these two men.