Tribal Partners and Border Patrol prevent dangerous smuggling attempt in upstate New York

AKWESASNE, NY, May 5 – With assistance from the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribal Police Department, the Akwesasne Mohawk Police Service, and the Hogansburg-Akwesasne Volunteer Fire Department (HAVFD), U.S. Border Patrol agents from the Massena Border Patrol Station apprehended seven (7) individuals in connection with a failed smuggling attempt early Thursday morning.

On April 28, suspicious activity was reported to the Akwesasne Mohawk Police Service, which notified the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribal Police Department about a boat containing multiple subjects traveling from Canada near Cornwall, Ontario; toward the United States. The Saint Regis Mohawk Tribal Police Department responded and observed the vessel taking on water and sinking in the Saint Regis River in Akwesasne. Answering the call for assistance, Border Patrol agents and the HAVFD arrived on the scene to find the reported vessel almost entirely underwater. One of the subjects exited the sinking boat and made his way to the shoreline. The HAVFD deployed a boat A sinking boat with 7 people on board. and was able to recover the other six (6) distressed subjects. It was later determined there were no life jackets or other safety equipment on board the sinking boat.

Due to the water temperature being just above freezing, all seven (7) subjects were evaluated and treated for hypothermia by medical professionals. Upon their release, they were arrested by Border Patrol agents and transported to the Border Patrol Station for processing. Six (6) of the subjects, all ranging from ages 19 to 21 years old, were citizens of India and charged with Improper Entry by Alien in violation of 8 USC 1325.

The seventh subject, a United States Citizen, was charged with Alien Smuggling in violation of 8 USC 1324. Alien smuggling is a felony, which carries a penalty of a fine and up to 10 years in prison for each violation.

“Outstanding cooperation between law enforcement and rescue services prevented what could have been a horrific tragedy,” said Chief of Police Matthew Rourke of the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribal Police Department. “I emphasize that human smuggling is illegal and poses a significant danger to the Akwesasne community. We don’t know the intentions or vaccination status of smuggled individuals, but more importantly, the time and resources spent in a rescue effort unnecessarily risk the lives of our first responders and our already strained emergency response services.”

“Fire department vessel aiding a sinking boatI commend our Tribal partners for their diligent response and preventing what could’ve been a catastrophic situation,” said Massena Station’s Patrol Agent in Charge Wade Laughman, “human smuggling is not only a crime but extremely dangerous. Smugglers do not care about safety or human life; they only care about profits.”

The Swanton Sector is responsible for securing the land border between ports of entry in Vermont, New Hampshire and northeastern New York. Citizens reporting suspicious activity is invaluable to the Border Patrol’s mission, and we welcome community members’ information to help keep our nation’s borders safe.

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