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N.Y. Family Held in Immigrant Smuggling

June 22, 2004|From Associated Press

GARDEN CITY, N.Y. — A couple and their daughter were arrested Monday in a smuggling scheme that allegedly charged Peruvian immigrants at least $6,000 for a visa and demanded "virtual servitude" as repayment, prosecutors said.

The arrests came during raids on the couple's Long Island homes, including one at which authorities found 69 immigrants, including 13 children, living in what were described as squalid conditions.

Maruiluz Zavala, 42, Jorge Ibanez, 41, and their daughter, Evelyn Ibanez, 20, were charged with smuggling and harboring illegal aliens. They were ordered held without bail.

The immigrants "were held in virtual servitude as they paid off their debts," said Martin Ficke, special agent in charge for the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement bureau.

According to a complaint, the couple allegedly charged between $6,000 and $7,500 to obtain U.S. tourist visas for the immigrants without them having to undergo required interviews and screenings.

The couple's daughter allegedly provided phony registration and Social Security cards, which the immigrants used to get jobs. They were then forced to turn over most of their paychecks.

If convicted, Zavala and Ibanez each could face up to 20 years in prison and fines of $250,000. Their daughter could face up to 10 years in prison and $250,000 in fines. Their attorneys declined to comment.

Ficke said the 69 immigrants were being screened.

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