And two or more of those named in the indictment issued by the U.S. Attorney’s office in Buffalo, were apparently checked and cleared to enter the U.S. by border officers — this despite the fact that they had been previously refused entry.
A spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security issued a vigorous denial when asked if a border patrol officer, or officers, might have been aware that the entry of the Irish nationals was being permitted, in spite of knowledge or suspicion that they had been previously denied entry.
Meanwhile, three or more of the nine named in the indictment are expected to appear in a Buffalo court this Thursday.
Two of three individuals named in the indictment who were still being sought by U.S. immigration authorities after the arrest of the other six were reportedly in Ireland in recent days.
There were unconfirmed reports that possibly one of these individuals had been detained, but this could not be confirmed by presstime.
The nine Irish nationals, eight men and one woman, were named last week in two federal indictments linked to an alleged people smuggling operation on the Canada/U.S. border.
Three were detained in New York, one in Philadelphia while two other who have been living in Boston were arrested in Texas.
The investigation charges that named Irish nationals “did encourage” other Irish nationals to attempt to illegally enter the U.S. in May and June of last year.
Significantly, neither indictment charged that the act of encouraging was motivated by profit. A financial element to the allegations would mean potentially longer prison terms in the event of guilty verdicts.
However, sources have indicated to the Echo that sums as high as $5,000 may have changed hands for secure passage across the border.
As it stands, the charge of encouraging illegal entry, a felony, carries a maximum of five years in jail, while the act of attempting illegal entry, also a felony, carries a potential two-year maximum term.
Multiple counts carry the potential of longer, concurrent prison terms.
In the first indictment — issued on behalf of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of New York — Peter Hennessy and John J. Whelan are charged with encouraging Declan Whelan, “who was an alien, to come to and enter the United States, knowing that and in reckless disregard of the fact that such coming to or entry into the United States was and would be in violation of law.”
Declan Whelan is separately charged with attempting to enter the U.S. after being refused entry in 1999.
Hennessy and John Patrick McEvoy are charged with encouraging Shane Lawlor to attempt to enter the U.S. in June of last year. Lawlor is charged with attempting to enter despite being denied entry on April 23, 2005.
In the second indictment Phillip Reilly is charged with encouraging James Michael Shiel to enter the U.S. Shiel is charged with attempting entry after being denied it in October 2004.
Reilly is additionally charged with encouraging Aiden Tully with attempting to enter the U.S. while Tully is charged with attempting to enter despite a refusal in April of last year.
Reilly, a well known and popular business figure in Queens, is further charged with encouraging Caroline McConville to enter the U.S. McConville faces a charge of attempting to enter after being turned back in December 2002.
The three who were sought by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents after the arrest of the other six were Hennessy, Lawlor — who also goes by the name of Shane Russell according to the indictment — and Reilly, an ICE spokesman said.
Reilly, it us understood, was on holiday in Ireland when the arrests were made and subsequently made himself known to authorities there.