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News / Northwest

Two men arrested, suspected of human smuggling

People allegedly were brought into U.S. by rail from Canada

By The Bellingham Herald
Published: May 26, 2024, 5:46pm

BELLINGHAM — Two men have been arrested as part of a federal investigation into an operation bringing people illegally into the U.S. by rail from Canada.

Jesus Ortiz-Plata, 45, of Independence, Ore., and Juan Pablo Cuellar Medina, 35, of Everett were arrested Thursday with three non-citizens who had been smuggled into the U.S. from Canada, according to a news release from U.S. Attorney Tessa M. Gorman of the Western District of Washington.

Both men made initial appearances in U.S. District Court in Seattle on Friday.

“These defendants have allegedly been linked to an extremely dangerous smuggling scheme where people are loaded into freight cars on trains traveling from Canada into the U.S.,” Gorman said in the release. “Being locked in a freight train car is dangerous — there is no control over the heat, cold, or ventilation, and people can be injured or killed by shifting freight. In one dangerous instance last August, some 29 people were rescued from a boxcar filled with plastic pellets.”

Investigators used communications data to identify Ortiz-Plata as a suspect. Agents followed him from Oregon to Medina’s apartment in Everett, where the arrests were made. The three non-citizens also were taken into custody.

Conspiracy to commit illegal transportation of a non-citizen for private financial gain is punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.