ST. STEPHEN, New Brunswick — The Royal Canadian Mounted Police arrested four people Wednesday in what they characterize as an organized crime group involved in the human smuggling of migrants into the United States from Canada.
Savita Singh, 43, of St. Stephen and Vaughn McLuskey, 71, of Fredericton were arrested in New Brunswick, while Ontario residents Mohammed Habib-Yusef, 53, and Ravindra Hariprasad, 36, were arrested in Scarborough, Ontario.
The four face charges of criminal conspiracy to violate immigration laws. They were expected to appear in St. Stephen Provincial Court Thursday.
The three men and one woman were arrested by the RCMP’s Atlantic Region Immigration and Passport Section, working closely with the RCMP’s Integrated Border Enforcement Team in New Brunswick.
“Human smuggling involves the illegal movement of persons across international borders, with their consent, in exchange for a sum of money,” the RCMP said in a press release. “At this point of the investigation the RCMP have intercepted two migrants from Guyana [that] this group was trying to smuggle into the United States.” Guyana is a former British colony on the northern coast of South America.
The Canadian charges are similar to trouble Singh had in Maine in 2005. That summer, she was arrested by authorities in the United States and subsequently pleaded guilty to trying to smuggle three illegal aliens from Guyana into the U.S. at the Calais border crossing. At the time she went by the name Savita Singh-Murray. She later was sentenced in U.S. District Court in Bangor to 132 days in jail, which was time served, on the charge.
Judge John Woodcock at the time admonished Singh-Murray for her involvement in what prosecutors suspected was a plot to bring young women into the country to be forced to work as prostitutes.
It was not clear Wednesday whether the Canadian organized crime group had a connection to an organized crime group in the United States. All RCMP officials would say was that the investigation was ongoing.
“Human smuggling is often connected to other serious crimes such as drug smuggling and money laundering,” RCMP Atlantic Region Immigration and Passport Section investigator Wesley Blair said in the release. “Since organized crime groups involved in human smuggling are profit-driven, they do not often distinguish between migrants who are looking for a better way of life and migrants who are dangerous criminals.”
This month’s arrests in Canada were part of an ongoing RCMP investigation that began in New Brunswick last winter and expanded to include alleged criminal conduct in Ontario.
Sgt. Rick Bernard of the RCMP J Division Border Integrity said in a telephone interview Wednesday that the two Guyanese never made it into the United States.
“Through our investigation we were able to identify a human smuggling activity that was going to take place on the border between Ontario and maybe New York state,” Bernard said. “Our investigators got on that and were able to intercept the two migrants that were going to cross into the U.S. They were intercepted on the Canadian side.”
The migrants have been turned over to Canada Border Services and processed for eventual deportation, he said.
Although the investigation was handled in Canada, Bernard said, Canadian officials worked closely with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security including Customs and Border Protection and the U.S. Border Patrol.
“We work closely with them on every one of our border-related investigations,” he said.
The four suspects are expected to enter pleas on the charges in their court appearance today. “Then a judge will make the ultimate decision on whether or not they will be released or held pending trial,” Bernard said.