WASHINGTON - A man, who American authorities said is a Pakistani national and permanent resident of Brazil, has accepted a plea deal with the United States government for his role in smuggling dozens of illegal aliens into the US through South and Central America.
In his plea agreement, Sharafat Ali Khan, 32, admitted that he smuggled illegal aliens from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh to the US between March 2014 and May 2016.
The smuggling operation involved a network of safe houses and facilitators that stretched from South America, traversing the jungles of Colombia and Panama, to various spots on the US-Mexico border. The trips he arranged were long, arduous and dangerous, court filings assert.
Sharafat Khan was responsible for smuggling at least 81 illegal aliens, according to a Federal complaint filed last year. The investigation into Khan began after March 2014 when special agents with US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) uncovered an alien smuggling organisation that was operating in South and Central America to help illegal aliens from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan enter the US. Khan was first identified in July 2015, according to the complaint.
The filing states that Khan charged between $5,000 and $12,000 to facilitate travel from his home base in Brazil to the southern US border. The journey involved travel by bus, foot and airplane and followed the general route: Pakistan – Dubai – Brazil – Peru – Ecuador – Colombia – Panama – Costa Rica – Nicaragua – El Salvador – Guatemala – Mexico – United States.
Six people smuggled by Khan provided information to ICE special agents about the operation.
One Pakistani national apprehended in Pharr, Texas on May 25, 2015, said that he paid Khan $6,000 to smuggle him into the US.
The man initially transferred $2,000 to a bank account for Khan in Pakistan. After that, he flew to Brazil and remained in a safe house there for several months before making a three-day trek through the jungles of Colombia.
At one point, the man stayed in a safe house operated by a smuggler in Guatemala. There, according to the complaint, the smuggler pointed a gun at Khan’s client.
The man said he was told to refer to Khan as Dr. Nakib throughout the journey.
Another man who entered the US at Otay Mesa, Calif. in Feb. 2015, said he paid Khan $10,000. He was provided fraudulent documents to fly to Brazil.
He also travelled through the Colombian jungle with other Indian and Pakistani men who were being smuggled into the US.
After arriving in Tapachula, Mexico, Khan told the man to purchase a plane ticket to Tijuana, just south of San Diego.
Khan instructed the man to enter the US on foot “and to raise his hands when he saw US authorities.”
Khan also ordered the man to not mention him by name or about his trip.
Several other illegal aliens made similar claims about Khan in interviews with ICE special agents. ICE also used informants to record Khan discussing his smuggling operation.
The charge against Khan carries a statutory maximum of five years in prison. But in a plea deal, both sides agreed that Federal sentencing guidelines called for a range of 24 to 46 months and prosecutors agreed to seek no more than 37 months at sentencing July 6 before US District Judge Reggie Walton.
Sharafat Khan was extradited to the United States from Qatar on July 13, 2016. He will face sentencing on July 6.
“Are you entering this plea of guilty because you are in fact guilty?” Walton asked Khan, who appeared in court in prison orange clothing.
“Yes sir,” Khan said.