Fugitive Bulgarian trucker arrested by U.S. marshals

By Greg Grisolano, Land Line staff writer | 10/23/2013

A Bulgarian man who was convicted of one count each of human smuggling and negligent homicide is awaiting extradition back to Bulgaria after being apprehended by the U.S. Marshal Service.

Plamen Vladimirov Trifonov, 58, was found guilty in Bulgaria and sentenced to eight years in prison on the charges in 2002. The charges stemmed from a 1995 incident in which 18 Sri Lankan stowaways died in the back of his truck while attempting to enter Hungary from Romania, according to an indictment filed in federal court.

According to court documents, in July 1995, Trifonov drove a truck reportedly loaded with sundry plastic items from Bulgaria into Romania, where he picked up 40 Sri Lankan nationals, loaded them into the metal cargo area, and transported them into Hungary.

The report states that the cargo area of the truck grew increasingly hot, and the air inside the cargo chamber became increasingly restricted. The passengers punctured the roof of the truck but were unable to secure sufficient airflow. When he finally opened the truck and found numerous passengers had died, Trifonov abandoned the survivors and the truck and hitchhiked back to Bulgaria.

Trifonov, who was living in Kirkland, Wash., and working as a long-haul truck driver, was arrested without incident on Sept. 13, according to a spokesman for the marshal service’s Pacific Northwest division.

It was not clear from the court documents when Trifonov fled his home country and entered the United States, although the court documents indicate he was arrested by U.S. immigration authorities in 2006. Federal court records show his appeal for political asylum and withholding of removal were denied in 2011. At the time of his initial arrest by U.S. authorities in 2006, there was no formal extradition treaty between the United States and Bulgaria.

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