PHOENIX, AZ (April 11, 2011) – Recently approved legislation that substantially toughens penalties for organizers of major human smuggling rings will have a significant impact on efforts to shut down these criminal operations, according to Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery. HB 2405, sponsored by State Representative Ted Vogt (R – LD30), modifies existing human smuggling statutes to allow prosecutors to effectively target operators of multiple “drop houses” and secure greater prison time and fines for defendants in cases where multiple acts of human smuggling can be proved beyond a reasonable doubt.
“With this legislation, we can now effectively target and hold accountable the human smuggling kingpins who account for the majority of drop houses and related crime that threatens the safety of entire neighborhoods,” said County Attorney Montgomery. “I commend Representative Vogt and his colleagues in the legislature for taking this major step towards reducing the incidences of human smuggling in Maricopa County and throughout the state,” he added.
Investigation into human smuggling crimes often uncovers organizations that operate multiple drop houses. These criminal organizations also engage in numerous other types of felonies, including kidnapping, sexual assault and fraud. Yet under current law, an operator of multiple drop houses faces the same penalty as a smuggler running a single house. The new legislation is modeled after laws currently used against criminal street gangs and will allow prosecutors to differentiate leaders and organizers of the larger criminal operations from lower level operators.
HB 2405 now heads to the Governor’s desk for expected signature.