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Chinatown Lawyer Accused of Smuggling 468 People into U.S.

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A case filed in Federal court this week offers a rare glimpse into the shadowy world of human trafficking in Chinatown. According to Courthouse News Service, an immigration attorney and two other suspects were arrested on Tuesday in connection with a large “international alien smuggling ring.”  The attorney, Hak Tung Lam (also known as Ke Dong Lin), works out of an office at 90 Bowery.

Lam was charged with allegedly conspiring to smuggle aliens, and smuggling them. Here are the allegations, detailed in a statement released by the U.S. Attorney:

“From October 2006 to February 2009, Hak Tung Lam allegedly worked with others to smuggle approximately 468 Chinese nationals into the United States… During that time, Lam provided legal and logistical advice to alien smugglers and made false immigration filings on behalf of the smuggled aliens. He earned close to $1 million for his participation in this smuggling ring. Earlier this summer, Lam was caught in an HSI [Homeland Security Investigations] undercover operation, providing advice to and making false filings for an individual working for HSI whom Lam believed was in the business of alien smuggling. Wen Wo Lam and Ying Yang (the other men charged) allegedly assisted Lam by, among other things, providing advice, collecting money, and coaching the aliens on what lies to include in their immigration filings.”

According to Sintao Daily (translated by Our Chinatown), Lam received about $2000 for each case he handled:

US Immigration and Customs this year also gathered evidence from two informants. Among them, one informant went directly to Lin’s office on March 25 to seek legal advice on smuggling. A secretary pointed out that the office requires payment of $2,000 for each illegal immigrant and that a discount can be applied if there are many immigrants. The secretary also emphasized that Lin has been in this business for 10 years already and told the informant not to worry. Shortly after, Lin met with the informant to discuss arranging entry for an illegal immigrant. On May 6, there were indeed three Chinese citizens who entered the United States through Chicago and had on them the phone number to Lin’s law office. They admitted the number was provided by the snakehead, and the law office guided them on making up a story for entering the country, telling them to say they had relatives in New York. In addition, Lin also told another informant that he had stopped providing help to snakeheads in 2009 because one he had worked with before had had a problem, but he said he trusted that this time was relatively safe.

Lam faces up to 25 years in prison if convicted.

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