At that point, the Border Patrol summoned agents from the Department of Homeland Security’s ICE to investigate the possibility of an “alien smuggling organization,” according to an ICE affidavit filed in Miami federal court.
During the investigation, Dos Santos told ICE investigators that he paid $16,050 to a travel agency in Brazil, identified in court records as Costamares Travel, as the price to be smuggled to the United States.
Dos Santos’ claim was the first in a series of similar admissions by other Brazilian immigrants who also told ICE investigators that they paid the same agency similar fees to be smuggled to South Florida.
Dos Santos’ story, outlined in the ICE affidavit, describes the convoluted smuggling route the immigrants, most of them previously deported from the United States, took to reach South Florida.
According to the ICE affidavit, Dos Santos said he was instructed to travel from Brazil to Paris, then to London and finally the Bahamas where he stayed for one month awaiting the boat ride to U.S. shores.
While in custody at the Broward Transitional Center in Pompano Beach, Dos Santos allegedly told an ICE informant that his contact at Costamares Travel was a woman named Juliana and that she was involved in smuggling Brazilians to the United States for a fee of about $6,000 per person.
The ICE affidavit said the fees were paid to associates of Juliana in Newark, N.J., identified only as Ana or Poliana and Alexandro, Alex or Renato. The affidavit said Juliana was later identified as Juliana Rose Tome Froes, the woman arrested with her husband in September.
“Juliana,” the affidavit said, “gave specific instructions to Dos Santos to aid in his smuggling, such as directing him to dress and act like a tourist from Brazil, to discard his Brazilian passport that had been issued from a U.S.-based Brazilian consulate and obtain one from Brazil, and she explained that his itinerary through Europe would support his tourist cover story,” the ICE affidavit said. “Dos Santos stated that Juliana arranged his air travel from Brazil to Paris, then London and the Bahamas. At each stage of the trip, Dos Santos would speak to Juliana about his status and receive instructions.”
A prior boat interdiction on Sept. 16, 2009, had given federal officials preliminary indications of the smuggling ring.
On that date, the U.S. Coast Guard cutter Bluefin stopped a suspicious vessel traveling to South Florida about 10 miles east of Boynton Beach in Palm Beach County.
Boarding officer Christopher Spurlock and the boarding crew of five observed six people on the boat. Three were later identified as Brazilian nationals, some previously deported from the United States. One of the Brazilians subsequently told federal investigators he had paid $8,000 to be smuggled back to South Florida, via France, Britain and the Bahamas.
A second Brazilian undocumented immigrant, identified as Walderson Gomes Da Silva, told investigators that he had paid fees to be smuggled after meeting with Juliana and her husband Fabio, court records show. Da Silva told investigators that he had been smuggled into the United States at least three times by the ring. One of the times he was smuggled, the records say, he paid about $16,000 and also traveled to the Bahamas via Paris and London.