Two Turkish human smugglers arrested at port in New Jersey
Razi Canikligil – NEW YORKAgents from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement have raided a Turkish cargo ship in New Jersey, arresting the ship’s first officer and chief engineer on human smuggling claims.
First officer Özcan Köse, 36, and his brother Oğuz Köse, 35, will be tried in Pennsylvania after having been accused of taking 25,000 dollars each to engage in human smuggling.
U.S. agents raided the Turkish cargo ship Niledutch Opresy, which was at the Elizabeth Port, on Jan. 30, detaining the Köse brothers on charges that they engaged in human smuggling to the U.S. and “turned it into a trade.” Two illegal Turkish passengers were also detained.
According to a criminal complaint filed and sent to the Pennsylvania Eastern Region Federal Court by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent Nicholas K. Feil, the smuggling network founded by the brothers surfaced after a Turkish secret witness, who was smuggled into the U.S. in May 2013, was caught by the police in April 2016 and became an informant.
The secret witness said he met Özcan Köse, then captain of the ship the Cafer Dede, via two Turkish citizens in the Pennsylvanian towns of Levittown and Lancaster, identified respectively only as Adem and İzzet. He said he met Köse after sending a picture of himself to a person named Samet Öztürk on Facebook. Köse and the secret witness then met in the Aliağa district of the western province of İzmir.
Noting that he gave the smugglers 25,000 dollars each, the secret witness said he passed through a security check with a fake ID and hid in the chamber of the ship for a total of 18 days during the trip.
The secret witness told police that he and Köse spoke at length during the trip and that Köse told him he had smuggled a number of Turkish citizens to the U.S. and Canada in a similar fashion. He also said Köse showed him the pictures of the people he had smuggled.
The secret witness said he went from the ship’s chamber to the engine room as the ship approached U.S. waters, after which Oğuz Köse helped him pass through U.S. security.
After landing, the witness met with Adem and İzzet in a parking lot and gave them 7,000 dollars, while giving Özcan Köse 18,000 dollars.
The secret witness said a couple of months after the incident, he received a message from Özcan Köse on Facebook.
“Do you know anybody else who wants a trip to the U.S.?” he asked the witness and the witness’ brother, identified only by the initials as C.T., who traveled to the U.S. in the same way. According to the testimony, C.T. and two other Turkish citizens entered the U.S. through the Newark Port on Jan. 28, 2016.
A criminal complaint was prepared on Jan. 24 before the Niledutch Osprey arrived in the U.S. The complaint was then signed by Pennsylvania Eastern Region Federal Court prosecutor Andrea G. Folkes and Judge Carol S. M. Wells.
Because the smuggled Turkish citizens were caught in Pennsylvania, the case will be held in the Pennsylvania Federal Court. There was no mention of the Fethullahist Terrorist Organization (FETÖ), whose leader Fethullah Gülen is living Pennsylvania, in the criminal complaint.
Meanwhile, the cargo ship left New Jersey after a first officer and a chief engineer were sent from Turkey to the ship late on Feb. 1.
No legal procedures were carried out regarding the ship and the other crew on it.
The Köse brothers and the two Turkish illegal passengers are expected to appear in court on Feb. 6.