Guyanese national charged with smuggling Indian nationals into United States

MIAMI - A Guyanese national has been indicted on charges of conspiracy and alien smuggling in connection with her role in the smuggling or attempted smuggling of four Indian nationals into the United States following an investigation led by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Office of Investigations in Miami.

Annita Devi Gerald, aka Annita Rampersad, 52, was charged in a nine-count indictment filed on Wednesday by a federal grand jury in the Southern District of Texas on charges of conspiracy, encouraging and inducing aliens to come to the United States for profit, and bringing aliens to the United States for profit. Gerald was arrested by ICE special agents in Houston on Nov. 17 and has been held without bond since that time.

In July 2008, ICE special agents in Miami obtained information that Gerald was the alleged leader of an alien smuggling organization and initiated an investigation.

According to the indictment, from approximately April 2009 to Nov. 17, Gerald and others conspired to smuggle four Indian nationals into the United States. Allegedly, Gerald and her co-conspirators fraudulently obtained Belizean visas for the Indian nationals and escorted them from India to Belize, moving through various countries in Central and South America. Gerald allegedly provided lodging for all four Indian nationals in Belize while further smuggling arrangements were made.

In August 2009, Gerald allegedly arranged transportation for one of the Indian nationals to cross the border from Belize into Mexico where he met with Gerald's co-conspirator, Dhanraj Samuel, 52, of Trinidad and Tobago, who escorted him through Mexico. In Monterrey, Mexico, Gerald's co-conspirator paid a Mexico-based smuggler to illegally transport the individual across the Mexico-U.S. border to Houston. After making these arrangements, Gerald's co-conspirator allegedly flew to Houston where the co-conspirator received the Indian national at a motel approximately 10 days later. The smugglers who delivered the Indian national to Gerald's co-conspirator in Houston allegedly demanded and received a smuggling payment prior to releasing him. The Indian national smuggled to Houston is currently being detained by ICE pending removal. The whereabouts of the other three Indian nationals allegedly harbored by Gerald in Belize is currently unknown.

On Aug. 25, ICE special agents arrested Gerald's co-conspirator, Dhanraj Samuel, in Pompano Beach, Fla. for violations of bringing aliens to the U.S. for profit and aiding and abetting and conspiracy.

If convicted, Gerald faces a maximum prison sentence of five years for conspiracy and 10 years for each of the four counts of encouraging and inducing aliens to come to the United States for profit. Additionally, she faces the maximum penalty for each of the four counts of bringing aliens to the United States for profit, which is 10 years for a first or second violation and 15 years for any other violation. She also faces a fine of up to $250,000.

The investigation was conducted by ICE's Office of Investigations in Miami and Houston, with the critical assistance of the ICE Attaché offices in El Salvador, Ecuador, Brazil, Singapore and Panama, as well as the ICE Office of Intelligence in Washington, and the Alien Smuggling Interdiction Unit of Customs and Border Protection (CBP) in Washington. El Salvadoran authorities, particularly the Direción General de Migración y Extranjería (El Salvador Immigrations) and the Grupo Especial de Investigaciones Nacionales e Internacionales (El Salvador Police-GEINI) also provided invaluable assistance.

The case is being prosecuted by the U.S. Dept. of Justice Trial Attorneys Jerry Massie and Jessica Morris of the Criminal Division's Domestic Security Section with the assistance of Assistant U.S. Attorneys Edward Gallagher and Douglas Davis of the Southern District of Texas.