Bus company indicted for smuggling aliens

| Wednesday, December 12, 2001

Golden State Transportation, a Los Angeles bus company, has been indicted on 39 counts of transporting illegal aliens across the U.S./Mexican border. Most of those connected to the scheme were arrested in a series of raids focused chiefly in California, Arizona and Colorado.

Golden State Transportation's majority owner, Sistema Internacional de Transporte de Autobuses, is a wholly owned subsidiary of Greyhound Lines Inc. On Monday, the New York Times reported that Justice officials have not linked Greyhound officials to the scheme. Lynn Brown, a spokeswoman for Greyhound, described Greyhound's connection to Golden State as that of an investor with no day-to-day operating involvement.

Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft said 32 of the indictments and arrests in the case were the result of a two-year undercover investigation that involved more than 300 law enforcement personnel from various state and federal agencies. The action was to point out the government was cracking down on illegal immigration, Ashcroft said.

The complex scheme involved smugglers, bus terminal workers and top officials of Golden State who solicited as much as $1,500 from illegal immigrants wanting to be transported into the United States. Reportedly, the company moved as many as 50 to 300 illegal aliens a day, seven days a week over, the last five years.

Dubbed "Operation Great Basin," by the Immigration and Naturalization Service, the plot revealed that smugglers picked up illegal aliens hiding in El Paso or Tucson and transported them to Los Angeles, Denver or other U.S. cities. Phony names were put on the passenger manifest, the immigrants concealed in the bus terminal and then herded on the bus at departure time, usually late at night, officials said.

Federal authorities have moved to freeze the assets of Golden State, which include 160 buses, corporate bank accounts and terminals in Los Angeles, El Paso, and Tucson and property in Las Vegas.

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