Feds Announce Crackdown On Smuggling Groups

By Jude Joffe-Block
July 22, 2014

A federal effort to dismantle migrant smuggling organizations in Texas’ Rio Grande Valley has yielded 192 criminal arrests in the past month.

Those arrests were announced by Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson on Tuesday. They are part of an exercise known as "Operation Coyote."

Another part of the federal government’s plan to disrupt the flow of migrants smuggled through Texas is to follow the money.

When people in this country hire smugglers to bring their relatives from Central America or Mexico to the U.S., they must pay up.

A few years ago, those payments were mostly made through money transfers like Western Union.

But Agent Scott Brown of ICE’s Homeland Security Investigation team in Phoenix said that’s changing.

Now he said, smuggling groups usually have clients make anonymous deposits into a bank account from wherever they are in the U.S. Brown calls these interstate funnel accounts, and said his agency has learned how to identify accounts being used for this purpose.

"From there, we can look at where the payouts are going and identify the criminal investigation," Brown said. "So instead of organizations leading us to the money, now their own dirty money is leading us back to identifying the organization."

After working these investigations in Arizona for several years, Brown is now headed to Washington, D.C. to work on this issue on a national scale.