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WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 31, 2007
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2 charged with smuggling illegals through Alabama

MOBILE (AP) — A federal grand jury in Mobile has indicted two Houston men accused of driving a van filled with undocumented workers on Interstate 10 through Alabama last week.

Santiago Ramirez-Godoy, 32, and Luciano Alvarez-Meraz, 47, were charged with unlawful transportation of an illegal immigrant. When stopped by a U.S. Customs agent Jan. 23, the van owned by Wendy Transportation contained 16 passengers in addition to Ramirez-Godoy and Alvarez-Meraz, authorities said.

Alvarez-Meraz, who was driving, and Ramirez-Godoy, the front-seat passenger, are legal U.S. residents, but all the passengers, except one Mexican, had no documentation and have been sent to an immigration center for likely deportation.

According to authorities, Ramirez-Godoy said he knew the passengers were illegal but he needed the money. The passengers told investigators they paid from $1,500 to $5,000 to be smuggled into the country, the Press-Register reported.

Fuller said human smuggling is a "daily occurrence" on I-10, which connects Florida and California. "It's a major conduit for these people for making entry into the interior of the country," he said.

Ramirez-Godoy's lawyer, Clark Stankoski, said his client was working under Wendy Transportation's orders. No charges have been filed against the company.

Alvarez-Meraz's lawyer, Dom Soto, said his client had worked for Wendy for about three months and had lived legally in the country about 14 years.

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Information from: Press-Register, http://www.al.com/mobileregister

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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