Habtom Merhay Pleads Guilty to Smuggling Undocumented Eritreans and Ethiopians into the USA
WASHINGTON – A national of Eritrea and citizen of the United Kingdom pled guilty today to smuggling undocumented immigrants from Eritrea and Ethiopia into the United States.
Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Ronald C. Machen Jr. of the District of Columbia, and Special Agent in Charge Clark E. Settles of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations’ (HSI) Washington, D.C., Field Office made the announcement.
According to his plea agreement, Habtom Merhay, 47, who operated primarily from his residence in Dubai, orchestrated the unlawful smuggling of up to 99 undocumented African immigrants to the United States for profit. Specifically, Merhay admitted that in exchange for fees up to $14,000, he smuggled immigrants into the United States by providing fraudulent travel documents, purchasing airline tickets for travel to
South and Central America, and then coordinating with a network of smugglers to facilitate the travel by air, land and water across Central America and Mexico and into the United States.
Merhay pled guilty today before U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton of the District of Columbia, and is scheduled for sentencing on Dec. 16, 2014. Merhay was in the custody of Moroccan authorities between his arrest in Marrakech, Morocco, in August 2013 and extradition to the United States on April 25, 2014.