A Bangladeshi national pleaded guilty in a Texas federal court Tuesday to smuggling numerous fellow countrymen into the United States. The smuggling network moved the Bangladeshi nationals, mostly men between the ages of 18-35, to South America where they made their way through Central America and Mexico.
Moktar Hossain, a 31, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Court Judge Diana Saldana in the Southern District of Texas. Hossain, who resided in Monterrey, Mexico, admitted to housing Bangladeshi migrants before moving them on to Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas, and then Laredo, Texas.
The Department of Justice called the smuggling of illegal immigrants a “national security threat.”
“Human smuggling is a national security threat,” Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division said in a written statement on Tuesday. “Today’s plea makes clear that defendants who smuggle illegal aliens across the United States border for profit should expect to face the consequences in a United States courtroom.”
The smuggling activity occurred between March 2017 and August 2018, ICE officials stated. During Fiscal Year 2018, human smugglers moved nearly 700 Bangladeshi nationals into the Laredo Border Patrol Sector, Breitbart Texas reported.
“When you have countries like Bangladesh that have had potential ties to terrorism in the past — well, these folks that are coming from that country, what is their intent when they are crossing into the United States illegally?” then Laredo Sector Acting Chief Patrol Agent Jason D. Owens told Breitbart Texas during a 2018 phone interview. “What is their ultimate destination? What is their goal?”
Throughout FY 2018, officials reported that most of the apprehended Bangladeshi nationals were adult males between the ages of 18 and 35. Recently, agents observed some unaccompanied minors and family units as well. Officials stated that Bangladeshis will pay as much as $27,000 each for the smuggling trip that leads from their home country and eventually to the U.S. border–mostly in the Laredo Sector.
Multiple Bangladeshi nationals smuggled into Texas provided statements to investigators about their experiences, according to court documents obtained by Breitbart Texas. Several men describe being flown from Bangladesh to South America, where they were forced to march through the Darien Gap from Colombia to Panama. The men claimed they were not given food for days as they made their way through the dense jungle. Some reported seeing human skeletons along the way.
Their journey continued through Central America to Tapashula, Mexico, where a man named “Milon” (identified as Milon Miah, according to court documents) allegedly made flight arrangements to Monterrey. Smugglers drove the migrants to a stash location where Hossain fed and held them locked in a hotel room.
From there, Hossain arranged a driver to take the migrants to the border and provided instructions on how to cross the Rio Grande. The migrants would cross in groups of four or five to be apprehended by Border Patrol agents shortly after entry, the court documents stated. This is consistent with contemporaneous information provided to Breitbart Texas by Laredo Sector Border Patrol officials throughout 2018.
Throughout 2018, Breitbart Texas reported extensively on the apprehension of Bangladeshi nationals in the Laredo Sector.
“HSI is committed to dismantling criminal schemes that mitigate the security of our borders and disrupting the flow of illicit money to these criminal networks,” Special Agent in Charge Shane Folden of U.S Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) San Antonio said in a written statement. “HSI remains steadfast in aggressively pursuing members of transnational criminal organizations that exploit and endanger the people they smuggle into the United States. We will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to maintain the integrity of our borders and the safety of our communities.”
As part of the plea agreement document obtained by Breitbart Texas, Hossain agreed to cooperate in ongoing investigations and to provide testimony. He also agreed not to contest the forfeiture of certain assets.
A date for a sentencing hearing has not yet been set. Prosecutors plan to recommend a sentence of 60 months in prison and some period of supervised release.