Indian-origin California man smuggled 800 people to US, jailed

Rajinder Pal Singh. Image credit Pixaby

IBNS: A 49-year-old Indian-origin resident of Elk Grove, California, was sentenced today in U.S. District Court in Seattle to 45 months in prison for Conspiracy to Transport and Harbor Certain Aliens for Profit and Conspiracy to Commit Money Laundering, announced Acting U.S. Attorney Tessa M. Gorman.

Rajinder Pal Singh, aka Jaspal Gill, pleaded guilty in February 2023, admitting that he took in more than $500,000 as a key member of a smuggling ring bringing hundreds of Indian Nationals across the border from Canada and then to locations in the mid-west and beyond, read the statement issued by the US State Department.

At the sentencing hearing, U.S. District Judge John C. Coughenour accepted the joint sentencing recommendation.

“Over a four-year period, Mr. Singh arranged for more than 800 people to be smuggled into the U.S. across the northern border and into Washington State,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Tessa M. Gorman. “This conduct was not just a security risk for our country, it also subjected those smuggled to security and safety risks during the often weeks-long smuggling route from India to the United States. Mr. Singh’s participation in this conspiracy preyed upon the Indian Nationals’ hopes for a better life in the United States, while saddling those smuggled with crushing debt of as much as $70,000.”

“Mr. Singh spent years illegally smuggling hundreds of Indian nationals into this country; all to make a quick profit,” said Special Agent in Charge Robert Hammer, who oversees HSI operations in the Pacific Northwest. “Fortunately, through a committed HSI investigative team, complemented by U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the U.S. Attorney’s Office, that scheme has come to an end. Mr. Singh crushed the dreams of so many who quickly found themselves drowning in debt to their smuggler and unable to realize the life they sought in this country. Mr. Singh won’t need to order up any more Uber rides for the next three years.”

According to records filed in the case, as early as July 2018, Singh and his coconspirators used the ride share app Uber to transport people who had illegally crossed the border from Canada to the Seattle area.

Those records detail how trips beginning near the border in the early hours of the morning, would be split between different rides.

For example, one Uber trip would be from the border to Sea-Tac airport, and then minutes later the second Uber trip would be from a nearby airport hotel to an address in Lacey, Washington, owned by Singh’s spouse.

All told, from mid-2018 to May 2022, Singh arranged more than 600 trips involving the transportation of Indian Nationals who had been illegally smuggled into the U.S.

Once the non-citizens had been smuggled into the U.S., Singh coordinated with other coconspirators who, using one-way vehicle rentals, would transport these individuals to their ultimate destinations outside Washington State.

Singh and his coconspirators used sophisticated means to launder the organization’s illicit proceeds. For example, on one instance, Singh and his coconspirators arranged for smuggling fees to be sent via Hawala from India to New York.

Once the smuggling fee was received in cash from the New York Hawala, these funds were converted into a check, mailed to a coconspirator in Kentucky, and then were washed through multiple financial accounts.

In the plea agreement, Singh admitted that the purpose of this money movement was to obscure the illicit nature of these funds, i.e., money laundering.

The smuggling scheme has been underway since at least 2018. It slowed during the pandemic when Canada was not admitting non-citizens.

However as pandemic restrictions were lifted, the smuggling scheme became active again.

In all, the investigation estimates that between July 2018, and April 2022, the 17 Uber accounts tied to this smuggling ring ran up more than $80,000 in charges.

In addition to the search of the home in Lacey, law enforcement searched two of Singh’s residences in California.

During the search of one of his homes in Elk Grove, California, investigators found about $45,000 in cash as well as counterfeit identity documents.

They also found copies of falsified documents that had been submitted to immigration judges in Washington during bond hearings for non-citizens who had been smuggled into the United States by Singh and his coconspirators, but who had been arrested by immigration authorities after illegally crossing the border.

Singh has agreed to forfeit cash and other personal property seized during the search of his residences, as well as a money judgement of $500,000 which represents proceeds he obtained from his criminal scheme.

Both sides agreed to recommend that Singh serve 45 months in prison. Singh is not legally present in the United States and will likely be deported following his prison term.

The investigation was led by Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) with assistance from U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Uber assisted with the investigation shortly before the arrest in this case.

The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Joe Silvio.