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GAO Report Commends Work of Arizona Attorney General’s Office; Goddard Calls for More Federal Action to Combat Human Smuggling

(Phoenix, Ariz. -- July 26, 2010) A new report released by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) praises the pioneering work done by the Arizona Attorney General’s Office to combat human-trafficking by disrupting the transfer of funds to the Mexican cartels.

The 70-page report says the Arizona approach stands as a model for stronger federal efforts to reduce smuggling of illegal immigrants across the southwest border, since most illegal border crossings are coordinated by the cartels.

Goddard urged the federal government to act on the GAO recommendations and adopt investigative tools developed by his office to cut down the flood of cash that funds the cartels’ violent operations. 

"For the past seven-and-a-half years, my Office has been fighting border crimes, especially human-smuggling, and our most effective strategy has been to follow the money," Goddard said upon his return from testifying at a congressional hearing in Washington, D.C., about illegal immigration. "We are alone among the states in developing investigative techniques that work. The GAO's report makes it clear that the federal government could use its greater resources to leverage those techniques, reduce the flow of cash and weaken the cartels.”

The report encourages the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Office (ICE) to adopt the techniques used in Arizona to track money transfers wired to the cartels to pay for human smuggling. 

"The Arizona Attorney General has disrupted alien smuggling organizations and seized assets by focusing on money service businesses; opportunities exist to leverage these resources," the GAO report says. "Arizona's financial investigative techniques and resources offer the potential to enhance efforts to counter alien smuggling as well as advance other federal anti-money laundering goals and objectives."

Richard M. Stana, director of homeland security issues for the GAO, said Arizona's work holds great promise for wider federal application. 

"Arizona mined data to identify patterns and connect dots," Stana said. "That kind of strategy, we think, is really important." 

Goddard’s Office has prosecuted dozens of human smuggling cases in the past few years. In the most recent case, Rosalio Palacios, 28, an illegal alien Mexico, pleaded guilty to five felony charges and was sentenced last week to seven years in prison. He was the ringleader of a human-smuggling operation that is believed to have helped several thousand illegal immigrants cross the border into Arizona in the past several years.  

A copy of the GAO report is attached.   For more information, contact Press Secretary Molly Edwards at (602) 542-8019.

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