DOJ arrests two suspected of smuggling people into the country by railroad from Canada

Two men have been arrested as part of a federal investigation into a human smuggling operation bringing people illegally into the U.S. by rail from Canada.

Jesus Ortiz-Plata, 45, of Independence, Ore., and Juan Pablo Cuellar Medina, 35, of Everett were arrested Thursday, May 23, with three non-citizens who had been smuggled into the U.S. from Canada, according to a news release from U.S. Attorney Tessa M. Gorman of the Western District of Washington.

Both suspects made their initial appearances in U.S. District Court in Seattle on Friday.

“These defendants have allegedly been linked to an extremely dangerous smuggling scheme where people are loaded into freight cars on trains traveling from Canada into the U.S.,” Gorman said in the release. “Being locked in a freight train car is dangerous – there is no control over the heat, cold, or ventilation, and people can be injured or killed by shifting freight. In one dangerous instance last August, some 29 people were rescued from a boxcar filled with plastic pellets.”

Investigators used communications data to identify Ortiz-Plata as a potential suspect. Agents followed him from Oregon to Medina’s apartment in Everett, where the arrests were made. The three non-citizens also were taken into custody.

Conspiracy to commit illegal transportation of a non-citizen for private financial gain is punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

The arrests are the result of a lengthy investigation by Homeland Security Investigations Border Security Enforcement Team (BEST).