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Mexican immigration official indicted on immigrant smuggling charges
April 10, 2001

EL PASO, Texas (AP) -- A Mexican immigration official has been extradited after he was indicted by a federal grand jury on a charge of conspiracy to smuggle undocumented immigrants into the United States.

Angel Salvador Moreno is accused of being part of a smuggling ring that brought hundreds of Iraqis and Palestinians into the United States through El Paso in 1996 and 1997. The operation is believed to have made more than $1.25 million in that time.

The indictment on Moreno was handed up in February 1998, and the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Western District of Texas requested that he be extradited. Moreno arrived in El Paso Monday night.

He was scheduled to make his first court appearance Tuesday before U.S. Magistrate Michael Judge Michael McDonald. If found guilty of the conspiracy charge, Moreno faces up to five years in federal prison.

The Immigration and Naturalization Service conducted the investigation that revealed the workings of a smuggling pipeline, which was initiated before January 1996 and lasted until February 13, 1998.

Authorities said the ring charged anywhere from $10,000 to $15,000 to smuggle an individual into the United States. Fees of between $4,000 to $10,000 were added to the total smuggling price if the undocumented immigrants needed housing - mostly in El Paso hotels - or transportation.

Moreno, alleged ringleader George Tajirian and two others were indicted in the case. On August 18, 1998, Tajirian, an Iraqi-born Mexican citizen, was sentenced to 13 years in U.S. federal prison. Tajirian's wife, Maria Soledad Martinez-Rangel, a resident of Mexico City, and Katia Anbousi, a Lebanese woman who was employed by Tajirian, still are fugitives.

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