Thursday, June 23, 2005

"Sister Ping" Convicted of Smuggling

When I was a foreign correspondent based in Hong Kong, Chinese Triads announced their plan to smuggle thousands of their members into the U.S. via ship. We correspondents laughed, totally disbelieving that Triads could purchase ships and smuggle their members and relatives into the U.S. by the shipload. Surely the Coast Guard and Border Patrol would catch them.

The joke was on us. We stopped laughing in June, 1993, when the Golden Venture ran aground off Rockaway Beach, Long Island, and disgorged hundreds of Triad members onto U.S. shores. Instead of catching and deporting everyone aboard, dim Americans bemoaned the ten illegal aliens who drowned in the commission of their crime.

Twelve years later, one of the organizers of the Golden Venture and other smuggling operations has finally been convicted. Cheng Chui Ping, often called "Sister Ping," was convicted of human smuggling, conspiracy and money laundering, among other charges. She became a multi-millionaire from smuggling untold thousands of Chinese into New York at fees of $40,000 a head and more.

Human smuggling is run by organized crime. Anyone who solicits, hires and pays a smuggler must have contacts and connections to organized crime rings. Together, they conspire to commit one or more of a variety of crimes: smuggling humans and, often enough, additional contraband; identity theft and fraud; forgery of identification, credit cards, other documents and financial instruments; carjacking; robbery/burglary; car theft; ad infinitum.

Illegal immigration will stop when we prosecute not just the smugglers, but those who hire and conspire with them. Use RICO. It's appropriate and effective.

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