US: Human smuggling leader at Canadian border in custody

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Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau talks to media at Rideau Hall in Ottawa, Wednesday, Sept.11, 2019. Trudeau has emerged from Rideau Hall after visiting the Governor General and asking her to dissolve Parliament to begin the formal federal election campaign. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press via AP)

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) – A man who federal prosecutors say led a human smuggling organization on the U.S.-Canadian border for five years is in custody and facing charges.

Sixty-year-old Godofredo Rivas-Melendez has pleaded not guilty in U.S. District Court in Burlington, Vermont, and was ordered held Monday pending trial.

Rivas is a Canadian citizen who was born in El Salvador. Court documents show he was deported from Canada and taken into custody Oct. 1 in Champlain, New York.

An indictment says Rivas’ organization specialized in smuggling people into Vermont and New York from Canada. It says clients sometimes paid thousands of dollars.

Rivas’ attorney did not return a call seeking comment.

Authorities would not say how many people they believe Rivas smuggled in.

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