MIAMI (CBSMiami) – At least one Colombian man has nothing to cheer about today.
Duastin Salazar, 28, pleaded guilty to visa fraud charges after trying to smuggle 16 people into the U.S. posing as a cheerleading squad, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) announced Thursday.
“By posing as cheerleaders, these defendants believed they could evade law enforcement and unlawfully enter the United States,” said Mike Shea, acting special agent in charge of ICE HSI in Miami. “To protect the homeland, we continually evaluate areas where criminal organizations may attempt to exploit our systems and processes to deny them access.”
The stunt was executed on September 30 as the group tried to enter Miami International Airport from a flight originating in Cali, Colombia. According to ICE, the group had fraudulent documents permitting them to enter U.S. to attend a cheerleading competition in South Florida.
In addition to Salazar, six other people involved in the scheme either pleaded guilty or were convicted in the case. Like the six previous suspects, he was sentenced to time served, two years of supervised release and a $100 fine.
The other “cheerleaders”, some of them minors, were not criminally charged and returned to Colombia.