A 60-year-old Indian man has pleaded guilty for his role in a complex, transnational conspiracy to smuggle people to the US, the Justice Department said.
Yadvinder Singh Bhamba pleaded guilty last month to one count of conspiracy and 15 counts of smuggling. A sentence hearing is scheduled for April.
The man allegedly had a role in a human smuggling conspiracy operating out of the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Puerto Rico and India.
As part of the conspiracy, Yadvinder Bhamba personally assisted around 400 people in unlawfully entering the United States between 2013 and 2015. He also oversaw and directed co-conspirators operating out of the Caribbean, Assistant Attorney General Brian Benczkowski of the Justice Department's Criminal Division said.
People paid between $30,000 and $85,000 to be smuggled from India to the United States and from at least 2013 to 2016.
The man was arrested in the Dominican Republic in August 2017, and later transferred to Puerto Rico.
Yadvinder Bhamba and his conspirators made flight arrangements for people to travel from India through other countries - including Thailand, the United Arab Emirates, Argentina, Iran, Panama, Venezuela, Belize, and Haiti - to the Dominican Republic, which was used as a staging area, after which they would be transported to the US.
The organisation brought groups of people from the Dominican Republic to Puerto Rico or Florida by boat and from there they were picked up by co-conspirators and taken to stash houses until flights could be arranged to California, New York, or elsewhere in the United States. They also arranged for fraudulent IDs.
The Justice Department said that the boat trips organised by Yadvinder Bhamba and his co-conspirators were perilous. Boat captains used old, damaged, cracked, unlicensed, overcrowded, and unsafe boats to make the journey. In at least one instance, a person died in a boat on his way to the United States.