Officers arrested a Fresh Meadows couple last week and broke up a human smuggling ring operating out of Kennedy Airport that allowed illegal aliens to slip into the country through a door allegedly left open by an airport employee, the Justice Department said.
Sergio Salazar, 43, a customer service representative for LGS Sky Chefs, and his wife Angelica Acre-Salazar, 29, both of 164-29 75th Ave. in Fresh Meadows, were arrested last Thursday and have been charged in federal court in Brooklyn with smuggling aliens for private financial gain, a spokesman for U.S. Attorney Alan Vinegrad said. A third person, Ramon Delacruz, of Haverstraw, N.Y., was also charged.
If convicted, each defendant would face a mandated minimum of three years in prison, and as many as 10 years, for each alien smuggled or attempted to be smuggled into the United States. Each defendant could also be fined $250,000, said the spokesman for the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District.
Salazar allegedly sneaked undocumented travelers around immigration and customs checkpoints using the access he had earned as an airport security officer, the U.S. attorney said. Salazar earned more than $1,000 for each person he smuggled in on flights coming from the Dominican Republic, his homeland, officials alleged.
The defendants repeatedly breached security at a major international airport for the sake of their own personal gain, Vinegrad said in a statement made after the arrests. This case shows the investigation and prosecution of crimes at the border is vital to maintaining the nations security, and we will continue our vigilance in this area.
As an employee of LGS Sky Chefs, a food service provider for airlines, Salazar had an access key to a secured corridor connecting arriving international flights to an inspection area used by the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Services and U.S. Customs. Salazar allegedly used the key to unlock doors to the corridor and disable their alarms, the U.S. attorney said. He would then tell Delacruz which door was open and how the aliens could sneak past the checkpoints, and Delacruz would pass the information to the aliens using a cellular telephone, the U.S. attorney alleged.
Salazars wife, Angelica Acre-Salazar, who worked at a car rental agency in Jackson Heights, allegedly helped to relay messages between her husband and Delacruz, the U.S. attorney said.
Seven undocumented travelers from the Dominican Republic were arrested during stakeouts between April 11 and May 1, and each was charged with passport fraud, Vinegrad said.
Alien smuggling has always been a serious crime and an INS priority, said INS Director Edward McElroy. In a post-Sept. 11 environment, it is also an issue of national security and it will not be tolerated.
The investigation into the human smuggling was uncovered while authorities from a number of federal, state and local agencies were investigating narcotics trafficking. The investigation intercepted some of Delacruzs telephone conversations, which allegedly revealed the alien smuggling ring, the U.S. attorney said.
Reach reporter Courtney Dentch by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com, or by phone at 229-0300 Ext. 138.
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