Six men were arrested early Friday morning in a police operation to dismantle a criminal organization that collects large fees to send Ecuadorians to the U.S. According to police, the men, known as “coyotes,” charged as much as $12,000 to illegally transport its customers to the U.S.
Five of the arrests were made in Cuenca while the fifth suspected was picked up in Chunchi in Chimborazo Province.
In addition to the arrests, the operation, code named “Odyssey 4,” confiscated thousands of dollars in weapons, illegal drugs, fake travel documents and cash. Police also found lists with the names and contact information of people the organization had sent north or planned to send.
According to prosecutor Paúl Vázquez, those arrested were charged with illegal human trafficking and face prison sentences of as much as 15 years. He added that preliminary investigations also show that the alleged coyotes often failed to provide the promised services, stealing money from customers. “We are looking at a number of crimes in this case and it is likely there will be multiple charges filed.”
Vázquez said that the evidence suggests that local organization worked with the Mexican drug cartel, the Zetas, who have been linked to the murders of other migrants.