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Alleged Human Smuggler Extradited to Face Charges in Washington, D.C.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE US Department of Justice Monday, April 28, 2014 Alleged Human Smuggler Extradited to Face Charges in Washington, D.C. Habtom Merhay, a national of Eritrea and a citizen of the United Kingdom, made his initial appearance today in Washington,


US Department of Justice

Monday, April 28, 2014

Alleged Human Smuggler Extradited to Face Charges in Washington, D.C.
Habtom Merhay, a national of Eritrea and a citizen of the United Kingdom, made his initial appearance today in Washington, D.C., federal court to face human smuggling charges for his role in smuggling primarily Eritrean and Ethiopian undocumented migrants from Dubai, United Arab Emirates, through South and Central America and Mexico into the United States.

Acting Assistant Attorney General David A. O’Neil of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Ronald C. Machen Jr. of the District of Columbia and Acting Special Agent in Charge Katrina W. Berger of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) made the announcement.

Merhay, 47, arrived in the United States on April 25, 2014, and made his initial appearance today before U.S. Magistrate Judge Deborah A. Robinson in the District of Columbia.   He was indicted under seal in the District of Columbia in 2012, and the charges were unsealed today.  Merhay has been in the custody of Moroccan authorities pending extradition since his arrest in Marrakech, Morocco, in August 2013.

The indictment charges Merhay with one count of conspiracy to bring undocumented migrants to the United States for profit and 15 counts of unlawfully bringing an undocumented migrant to the United States for profit.   Court documents allege that Merhay operated with a network of smugglers in Africa, the United Arab Emirates, South and Central America, Mexico and elsewhere to coordinate and implement arrangements, including providing fraudulent identity and travel documents, for undocumented migrants to travel through Latin America and ultimately into the United States without authorization.   For up to $15,000, Merhay arranged for individual undocumented migrants to travel from points in Africa to a house or apartment in Dubai, where he provided travel documents, tickets and instructions for meeting other smugglers while on the way to the United States.   Merhay coordinated the migrants’ air travelto South America, where they would meet with Merhay’s associates, who would direct or guide them across the various country borders.   The undocumented migrants then met with other smugglers associated with Merhay and were further guided north to Mexico and then into the United States, sometimes by crossing the Rio Grande River by raft.

The investigation was conducted under the Extraterritorial Criminal Travel Strike Force (ECT) program, a joint partnership between the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and ICE-HSI. The ECT program focuses on human smuggling networks that may present particular national security or public safety risks or present grave humanitarian concerns.  ECT has dedicated investigative, intelligence and prosecutorial resources.  ECT coordinates and receives assistance from other U.S. government agencies and foreign law enforcement authorities.

The investigation was conducted by HSI Washington.  This case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorney Jay Bauer of the Criminal Division’s Human Rights and Special Prosecutions Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Frederick Yette of the District of Columbia.  The extradition was handled by Dan E. Stigall of the Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs.

The Department of Justice and HSI expressed their appreciation for the significant assistance provided by the Moroccan Ministry of Justice.

The charges contained in the indictment are merely accusations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

Source: US, Department of Justice

Review overview
  • Natu April 29, 2014

    Every show the US-officials do now ist only ridiculous. Where had they been the whole last years since 2006. As conspirators and coleagues of DIA, MOSSAD, CIA, MI6, …etc are bringing now seemingly investigations and arrests that may please in this moment the victims who lost their whole savings and beloved ones. Had not they been watching the crimes we face[d] from their TV in their comfortable living rooms?

    I condemn the evil Israelis, EU and Americans who are responsible for the lose of thousand s Eritrean youth collaborating with Wedi Berad, yes the HERO in Asmara, because of our weakness. At last only history will tell what the rich did upon us in order to expand their market places by conquering our Africa with modern methods.

    Why don’t they speak about DesertTec project (in the northern Africa) for example or why did they make Libya free free Ghadafi? Speaking about the exploitations the did and do seems to be Taboo!

    • FitHawi May 2, 2014

      ኣሜሪካ፣ እስራኤል፣ ወያነ፣ ሞሳድ፣ ሰይጣን፣ ዝብል ዘረባ ገዲፍና እቲ ኣብ ገዛና ዘሎ ጸገም ክንፈትሕ ይሕሸና። እዞም ካብ ዓዶም ዝወጹ ዘለው ስደተኛታት ናይ ነፍስወከፍና ቤተዘመድ ደሚርና’ሞ ነስተብህለሉ፣ ብዝኾነ ኣካል ዝተደገፈ ወይ ዝተሓብለ ሰብ የለን። ኩሉ ሰብ ካኣ ኣብ ናይ ካልኦት ጉዳይ ዳኣሉ ዝዋራዘ’ምበር፣ ደቁ፣ ኣሕዋቱ ወይ ሰበይቱ መውጽኢ ምስ ሰኣነ ኩሉ ዝካኣሎ ዘበሎ ሕጋዊ ይኹን ዘይሕጋዊ መንገዲ ተጠቒሙ ከውጽእ ኢዩ ዝጓየ። ኣበይ ኔሮም ኣሜሪካ ኣበይ ኔሮም እስራኤል እዚ ኩሉ ሰብ ክጠፍእ ኢልካ ምዝራብ ከሕፍረና ጥራይ’ዩ ዝግባእ። ኣበይ ኔርና ኣበይ ኣለና እባ ንሕና።
      ንሳቶም ኣብ ሃገራዊ ድሕነቶም ዘሰክፍ ጉዳይ ምስዝህሉ ዝያዳ ይጓየዩ፣ ኣብ ትርፊ ጊዜኦም ከኣ ብዛዕባ ሰብኣዊ መሰላት ይዛረቡ። እቶም ኣብተን ናይ ሰብኣዊ መሰላት ዝነጥፋ ትካላት ከኣ ስርሓን ከይዕጸወን ክብላ ዝመስለን ይገብራ። እሞኸ እንታይ ኢና ክንብል። ዋላ ኣብ ትርፊ ጊዜኡ ዝደናገጸልካ ምርካብ ሕማቕ ምኣስ ኮይኑ። እቲ ቀንዲ ዕዮ ናይ ባዓል ዋና ኢዩ። “ካብ ንፊዕ ጠበቓ ሕማቕ ዋና” ተባሂሉ ኣንድዩ ቀደም።
      እስኪ ምምስጋን ንፍለጥ። ሩባን ቁልቁልን ተሳጊራ፣ ዘሎን ዘየሎን ሓሶት ኣቀነባቢራ ናይ ስደተኛ መሰል ዝረኸበት ሰብ፣ ቅንይ ኢልካ ኣብ ዓዲ ቆንጺ ዘየብጻሓ ይብሉ ደቂ ዓድና፣ ኣብ ዓዲ ቆንጺ ዘየብጸሓ ጭርምራም ሓበሬታ ምስፈለጥና፣ ኣሜሪካውያን፣ ኤሮጳውያን፣ ወዘተ ተግባሮም ከምዚባ ከምቲ ኢዩ ኢልና ምህውታት ዋጋ የብሉን። ነቶም ሓንቲ ቢኬሪ ማይ እዉን ዘስተዩና ውልቀሰባት፣ ኣህዛብ ይኹኑ ሃገራት ክነመስግኖም ዳኣምበር ክንጸርፎም ዝግባእ ኣይኮንን።
      ንሕና ብዘይንፈልጦ ይኹን ብእንፈልጦ ይብለጹልና ኣለዉ ኢልና ንሓስብ እንተኾንና ከኣ፣ ንስራሕ መሰልና ክነኽብር። እቲ ቀንዲ ሽግርና ግና ኣብ ዓድና ኣብ ውሻጠና ኢዩ ዘሎ።

  • rahwa April 29, 2014

    an Eritrean accused of human smuggling activities? this is very alarming, and a wake up call. we need to wake up and do something about our ordeal unless we want to see Eritrea gone forever.

  • denden April 29, 2014

    People like you are making difficult and hard for the justice seekers in order to catch the criminals by withholding information about those criminal gangs.Many eritrean girls and boys hide information about the traffickers made it so hard for the law enforcement agencies to prosecute those criminals. The reasons they hide the criminals identities is because they want them to help to get their relatives out of eritrea.Erirean women who have been raped,made sex slave and tortured still hide vital information about their journey ordeal and who was involved and do not want to disclose the identities of those barbarians.So thanks very much for those women and men who spoke openly and testified against those smugglers and traffickers.One example is two girls 17 and 19 years old when interview by Israeli home affair did not want to disclose about the traffickers identity and did not say any thing about being raped and made sex slaves. When the home affairs wanted to deport them to eritrea or ethiopia , they claimed they have been raped(oral, virginal and annal) by the budowin arabs and was sold as prostitute to serve other arabs in sinai but the investigators said why did you hide that information before, the eritreans said because they were not asked specifically about rape.The Israeli did not believe them at all. Now with holding information and being protective of the people who raped, tortured you is the worst thing and it is a crime.

    • haqiyesar April 30, 2014


      My understanding the smuggler was sending people from Dubai and Emirate these means the migrants were working in Dubai and Emirates and they don’t have to cross the atrocious and tribulation of sinai journey.

    • Zeray April 30, 2014


      I think you need to read my comment again, if the criminals are like you said rapists and murders of course they need to be reported and dealt with. Not only is it the right thing to do it is also against the law not to report them for those who commit such atrocious crimes. However, if you are going to talk about justice you must deal each criminal individually. From the report above the smuggler was sending people from Dubai and may not fit the criminal profile that you are imagining.

  • John April 29, 2014

    I do not know why everybody is against this guy. He was just rendering a necessary service. People are always trying to get to USA by hook or crook. At least he did not sell them to the Bedouins in the Sahara but delivered them to the US safely….So people stop bitching..Most of you would not be here in the USA enjoying yourselves if it was not for him.

    • Zeray May 1, 2014


      At least you are honest. I agree with you. You know what, if the immigration papers were to be pulled of those people who are judgmental here, it would not surprise me to find fictional stories on most of them. Let the one who never messed up cast stones. I think Ghandi or Jesus said that.

  • denden April 29, 2014

    he was sending them into the unknown. He was not transporting them to usa or europe directly on airoplane from one point to another point. we do not have to tell you what happened to the girls who went to the carribean, mixco,etc.When he handed the girls to the illegal gangs, he altimately surrendered them to do what ever they want to do to them.He only cared how to be rich very quick and fast at the price of our innocent pure girls. Let me tell you each of us also capable of doing the same thing to get rich fast but our tradition, culture,custom, humanity and religious beleif hold us back from doing those evil things.

    • Zeray May 1, 2014


      You seem to have details on the guy. If what you said is true, I am with you 100%. I was simply trying to differentiate between those who help themselves by helping others and those criminals who do not care about the safety of others. Thank you for that extra info.

  • K. A May 1, 2014

    Must fully investigated bring over his consptators and face the full force of the law. All corrupt Eritreans involved in such activities must stop. This is un Eritean and in humane act.