January 24, 2005
Korean Immigrants Arrested in Albuquerque
By Leslie Hoffman
The Associated Press
ALBUQUERQUE Fifteen illegal immigrants from South Korea and the man accused of trying to smuggle them across the United States were arrested on a New York-bound Amtrak train in Albuquerque, federal officials said Monday.
The men and the alleged smuggler, 27-year-old Pyung Seop Lee, were arrested Thursday at the city's train station, according to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials. Lee also is believed to be in the country illegally, officials said.
The group, all men ranging from 23 to 35 years old, had Republic of Korea passports that lacked the proper U.S. visa or admission stamps, according to the agency.
A criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Albuquerque says authorities were tipped off about the group by Drug Enforcement Administration investigators who noted the foreign nationals' reservations on the Amtrak train's travel manifest.
When agents intercepted the train bound for New York, Lee told them the group was part of a tour. He said he was traveling with the group until they reached Chicago but was not part of the tour. The agents then found the mens' train tickets, passports and $4,000 cash in Lee's luggage, according to the complaint.
During an initial appearance Friday, U.S. Magistrate Robert H. Scott remanded Lee into the custody of the U.S. Marshal Service. Lee was set for a preliminary hearing Jan. 28.
"A priority of ICE is to eliminate the vulnerabilities that criminal enterprises exploit when they bring illegal aliens into the United States," said Peter J. Smith, special agent in charge of the agency's El Paso, Texas, office.
Two of the illegal immigrants, Dae Seong Jeon and Jeong Geon Park, told investigators they flew from Korea Dec. 21 to Canada. After spending a week in a Vancouver motel, they said they joined six other Koreans and were driven across the U.S.-Canada border to Los Angeles.
After about a month stashed in a Los Angeles house, they said Lee came to the house and instructed the group to meet him at an Amtrak train station, where they boarded the train.
Some of those traveling in the group said they believed they would have to pay when they arrived at their destination.