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Arizona Daily Star Update  [Very short-lived link]
Feds supposedly checking coyotes' money trail, sending more BP
Financial investigators will go after the profit motive of human smuggling in Arizona, a senior official for the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said Monday. -- Dubbed Operation ICE Storm, the federal government will go after the brokers receiving the money illegal border crossers pay to be smuggled into the United States... AP Internal Use Only

Feds supposedly checking coyotes' money trail, sending more BP

http://regulus.azstarnet.com/hourlyupdate/story.php?id=30

Tucson, Arizona

Updated 5:47 pm Nov 10, 2003

Feds send more border agents, probe smugglers' money trail

By Michael Marizco © 2003 Arizona Daily Star

PHOENIX - Financial investigators will go after the profit motive of human smuggling in Arizona, a senior official for the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said Monday.

Dubbed Operation ICE Storm, the federal government will go after the brokers receiving the money illegal border crossers pay to be smuggled into the United States, said ICE Assistant Secretary Michael Garcia.

"Take away the profit, take away the money and you're putting up an incredible deterrent for alien smugglers. If the money's not there, they're not going to be there," Garcia said.

Agents will use the same tactics applied to groups that support al-Qaida or high-level drug traffickers, said Paul Charlton, the U.S. Attorney for Arizona.

"It's an age-old solution to crime," he said. "And that is, to take down the money."

The same tactics were used to identify the smugglers who were responsible for the deaths of 19 illegal border crossers who died in a trailer earlier this year in Victoria, Texas.

The increasing violence in Arizona was a criminal response to Operation Gatekeeper, the Border Patrol's wall built near San Diego in 1994, Garcia said.

That made smuggling a costlier operation.

The federal agency will also bring in 50 more agents to Arizona, and though the agents will be stationed out of the Phoenix office, they will work throughout the state as well as with Mexican authorities, said Tom DeRouchey, the interim special-agent-in-charge for the Phoenix office.

The announcement came a week after a rolling shootout among people-smugglers left four people dead and others injured as well as a separate incident in which a Pima County Sheriff's deputy was injured Friday when his patrol car was smashed by a man whose car was filled with illegal immigrants was fleeing police.

The focus of the task force is Phoenix because that is where the majority of the people smuggling organizations are centered.

Southern Arizona has its share of coyote groups as well, said Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik. "It's been hitting Pima County for a long time. They're here, too, and they're at war with each other," he said.

Even though the federal task force will work throughout the state, border law enforcement agencies that see the smuggling on a daily basis say they need even more help from the federal government.

"I don't know what their plans are," said Santa Cruz County Sheriff Tony Estrada. "I wish them the best of luck. But the federal government has to somehow funnel more funds to the border communities."

Estrada said his agency last year received a federal grant of $22,000 to hold jailed illegal entrants through the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program.

"That's a drop in the bucket," he said. "They got the troops down here, they're a great team, but still, we're still a small agency overwhelmed with these issues and the federal government is not responding appropriately."

"We're in the lion's mouth down here."

Contact reporter Michael Marizco at 573-4213 or mmarizco@azstarnet.com.