NY prosecutor links properties to human smuggling
NEW YORK (AP) — A prosecutor asked a judge in Manhattan Wednesday to let the government seize seven properties in Dutchess County, saying they were bought by a man believed to have played a key role in a human smuggling ring.
U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara filed the civil action in Manhattan federal court, seeking to take properties in the town of Wappinger, located about 70 miles north of New York City.
The prosecutor said the properties were allegedly “purchased with the proceeds of a sprawling, lengthy human smuggling operation.”
Prosecutors said they were bought by a Greek national recently arrested by Greek authorities on charges related to the filing of false applications for passports. He is awaiting trial in Athens, Greece.
Authorities said he is believed to have participated in human smuggling, passport fraud and visa fraud since at least 2003. They said he helped smuggle foreign nationals, principally Albanian citizens, into the United States, Australia, the United Kingdom and Canada in exchange for the payment of thousands for dollars for each smuggled person.
Prosecutors said he was paid in cash or money orders that he then laundered through U.S. bank accounts before buying real estate, some of which was located in Dutchess County.
Court papers also seek money laundering penalties of at least $373,000.