Ruston sentenced in foreign trucker smuggling ring

| 11/1/2001

For his role in a foreign trucker smuggling ring, Australian Philip Ruston received five years' probation in exchange for his cooperation with federal prosecutors, according to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. He was released into the custody of immigration agents.

In October 1999, a federal grand jury indicted Ruston and nine others, including Ruston's father, Peter Ruston, Hoani Harawira of New Zealand and Anthony Kurr of Australia, for recruiting drivers from Australia and New Zealand and illegally bringing them into the United States. The original indictments included 125 counts of racketeering, conspiracy to launder money, visa fraud, alien smuggling and alien harboring, but charges were dismissed on all but one or two counts for the younger Ruston and four others who pleaded guilty and cooperated in the investigation.

The indictments resulted from a year-long investigation by the U.S. Justice Department, State Department, Internal Revenue Service, Immigration and Naturalization Service and Border Patrol, the Australian Federal Police and Victoria State Police in Australia.Investigators say the elder Ruston, through a company called Trek Group, contracted with Arkansas trucking companies to hire drivers from Australia and New Zealand. He apparently told companies these foreign drivers could live and work in the United States. Harawira recruited drivers in New Zealand, while Kurr recruited Australian drivers. Both admit they instructed drivers to lie on visa applications. The government estimates the 10 defendants made $14.6 million with most of the money coming from American trucking companies.