United States authorities have charged 13 Indian origin owners and former owners of motels in Arizona with conspiring to harbour illegal aliens, after they rented out rooms to undercover immigration officers who posed as human smugglers as part of a nine-month long sting operation.
According to authorities, Of the 13 individuals, eight went by the last name of "Patel", four by "Bhakta".
Search was also on for one Roshan Kumar Bharatbhai Bhakta, they added.
The criminal probe primarily focussed on motels in Mesa and began in February 2005, the department of Immigration and Customs Enforcement said in a release.
Each of the defendants in the case is charged with one count of conspiring to harbour illegal aliens, an offense that carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 (about Rs 1.1 crore) fine.
The ICE has provided a list of the establishments that were targetted and the defendants associated with each of the businesses.
The results of the investigation were announced in Phoenix by US Attorney Paul K Charlton and ICE Special Agent-in-Charge Roberto G Medina.
According to the indictments, on numerous occasions, the defendants rented rooms to undercover officers posing as human smugglers, with some charging the smugglers higher rates than their ordinary customers.
The indictments have described in detail how some of the defendants allegedly coached the undercover officers on ways to conceal their smuggling activities, including advising them to register under false names and rent multiple rooms.