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New documents give inside look at how an Ontario man allegedly smuggled up to 1,000 people across U.S. border

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New documents reveal how a Brampton, Ont. man, who allegedly boasted he smuggled more than 1,000 people into the U.S., conducted his operation and the steep prices he charged.

U.S. authorities say Simranjit “Shally” Singh, a 40-year-old Indian citizen, conspired to move people over the border from Cornwall Island through Akwesasne Mohawk territory, which touches New York, Ontario and Quebec and straddles the St. Lawrence River.

On Wednesday, he pleaded not guilty to charges related to human smuggling in a federal U.S. court.

“Singh has successfully moved illegal aliens northbound into Canada and southbound into the United States using the geographic vulnerabilities of the AMIR [Akwesasne Mohawk Indian Reservation]. Singh has been living in Canada illegally and has been able to elude law enforcement detection,” according to a request for provision arrest filed in a Brampton court by the U.S. Attorney's Office.

It was the same territory where two families died apparently trying to cross the St. Lawrence recently, though authorities have not said there is any connection between the cases.

The accusations against Singh offer a rare look at how authorities say human smuggling networks operate, and the steep prices they charge.

Some migrants told American law enforcement Singh charged between $5,000 and $35,000, the documents suggest, describing four “smuggling events”.

In one event in March 2020, a person referred to as “CW-1” dropped three Indian citizens at the Great View Motel in New York, according to a request for provisional arrest filed in Brampton.

“I’m dropping them off at a safe space,” CW-1 said in a text at 8:50 pm. “Ok they cross river,” Singh responded. “Yes,” CW-1 replied. A video reveals CW-1’s car pulling up to the motel and dropping the three off.

Then, “CW-1 travelled to Cornwall to meet Singh, bring him bottles of liquor, and collect $4,000 which represented CW-1’s pay,” the request says.

But CW-1 was concerned the hotel had been rented in her own name, and she returned to pick up the migrants. Border Patrol Agents saw her leaving the hotel and after a high-speed chase, arrested all four in Fort Covington, New York.

In another case in March 2021 also using the Akwesasne territory as a corridor, one migrant told law enforcement that “Singh bragged about smuggling over one thousand people and that CW-3 had nothing to worry about.”

Singh himself lost a refugee claim in Canada but couldn’t be deported without an Indian passport. His lawyers declined to comment to CTV News. Singh did not fight the extradition, though observers say fighting extradition to the U.S. can often be a tough battle.

“The bar is low. Even if a person is extradited, that doesn’t mean they are guilty. It just means that the requesting state has managed to meet that extremely low hurdle,” extradition lawyer James Bray told CTV News.

Singh was indicted in 2022 and was extradited to the U.S. last week. If convicted, he could be sentenced to up to 15 years in prison, the U.S. Attorney’s office said in a statement.

U.S. President Joe Biden and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau agreed to a deal in March aimed at stopping asylum seekers coming to Canada through unofficial border crossings, a move critics said could mean refugees and migrants will take more risks when crossing.

Increased scrutiny at the border will drive more desperate people into expensive and risky schemes like the one Singh is accused of orchestrating, said Chris Ramsaroop of Justicia for Migrant Workers.

“We’re going to see a lot more people put into perilous conditions,” he said. “These are strong deterrent measures that are going to have a tremendous impact on the most vulnerable people,” Ramsaroop said.

With files from Reuters.

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