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N.Y. Family Charged in Smuggling Scheme

June 21, 2004

GARDEN CITY, N.Y. (AP) _ Three people were arrested Monday in a smuggling scheme that allegedly charged Peruvian immigrants at least $6,000 for a visa and demanded ``virtual servitude″ as repayment, prosecutors said.

Maruiluz Zavala, 42, Jorge Ibanez, 41, and their daughter, Evelyn Ibanez, 20, were charged with smuggling and harboring illegal aliens. They were ordered held without bail.

The arrests came during raids on the couple’s three Long Island homes, including one at which authorities found 69 aliens, including 13 children, living in what were described as squalid conditions.

``These aliens were held in virtual servitude as they paid off their debts, proving that smugglers are more interested in profits than people,″ said Martin Ficke, special agent in charge for the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement bureau.

Also seized were fake identity documents, Peruvian passports, ledgers reflecting payment of smuggling fees and other financial documents, prosecutors said. Two bank accounts also were confiscated.

According to a complaint, the couple allegedly charged between $6,000 and $7,500 to obtain U.S. tourist visas for the aliens without them having to undergo the required interview and screening.

Ficke said sometimes the immigrants were given documents the couple obtained fraudulently; in other cases, forged papers were provided.

Ibanez allegedly provided phony registration and Social Security cards, which the immigrants used to get jobs. They were then forced to turn over most of their paychecks.

If convicted, Zavala and Ibanez each could face up to 20 years in prison and fines of $250,000; their daughter could face up to 10 years and $250,000. Their attorneys declined to comment following a federal court hearing.

Ficke said the 69 aliens are being held for screening and may assist in the investigation.

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