Windsor, Ont., riverfront home involved in U.S. human smuggling case tracked by federal authorities
A multi-million dollar Windsor, Ont., home is at the centre of a human smuggling investigation, according to federal authorities in the U.S.
The details are outlined in an affidavit filed to a Michigan court on Jan. 19, 2023. It describes an incident from April 2022, which started with a concerned citizen flagging down a border patrol agent in Detroit on East Jefferson Avenue near the Whittier high-rise building
According to these documents, a citizen reported a possible human smuggling event taking place at a marina on the Detroit River at the location of Sindbad's Restaurant. The area where the establishment sits is purportedly known for cross-border smuggling to border patrol agents. The incident was also reported on a Tuesday — the only day of the week when Sindbad's would be closed.
While investigating, the Border Patrol Agent encountered a fishing charter boat captain who also witnessed the event. The captain reported that a newer black and grey pontoon boat dropped off a group of six individuals of Asian descent along the dock. The captain reported he noticed the individuals did not have any fishing gear or other baggage with them.
Investigators reviewed Radar tracks which confirmed that a pontoon boat had arrived in the vicinity of Sindbad's and subsequently departed around the time reported by the captain.
The pontoon boat "that was used in the likely human smuggling incident," authorities said, was traced back a residence on Riverside Drive East in Windsor. On the property was a black 2018 Range Rover and a construction trailer.
According to the court documents, the boat, vehicle and trailer were all registered to a Charles John Lavin, a dual citizen of Canada and the United States, who was positively identified by the fishing charter captain as the operator of the pontoon boat he witness on April 12th during the alleged smuggling event.
According to reports in the Detroit News, Lavin has not been charged with wrongdoing.
Security camera footage and license plate readers showed that a maroon 2017 Chrysler Pacifica registered to Quang Dang Hoang, a U.S. permanent resident born in 1986, was observed travelling “as if departing Sinbad’s” on April 12 around the time of the alleged smuggling incident.
Hoang is a certified nail salon technician in Michigan, the affidavit says.
On April 14, 2022, a Border Patrol Agent observed Hoang driving the maroon Chrysler Pacifica into the driveway of a home on Nicholas Court in Warren, Mich. and observed a second Asian male in the vehicle identified as Ho Thong, a Vietnamese national who authorities say unlawfully entered the United States without inspection.
The following day, the agents observed Hoang and Thong traveling in the same vehicle to VP’s Nail Salon where they were seen working inside.
In late July, border patrol agents obtained search and seizure warrants from the U.S. District Court Eastern District of Michigan regarding Thong’s and Hoang's cell phones, which showed evidence of illegal entry into the United States, Thong's employment at VP's Nail Salon, and Hoang's role in transporting and harbouring "illegal aliens."
The affidavit indicates it was during that search when authorities discovered multiple videos on Thong's phone dated Oct. 6, 2021, including one which showed Thong and other individuals at the Riverside Drive residence in Windsor, Ont.
The luxury home, which had been listed for $6 million in 2016, would rank as one of the most expensive properties to ever go up for sale in Windsor.
"Thong was observed riding on the pontoon boat as a passenger. A subsequent video from Thong’s phone shows other individuals on the pontoon boat while Lavin was operating the helm," an excerpt from the affidavit reads.
Agents also discovered "additional photographs from Hoang's phone that support his active role in transporting, harboring, and employing illegal aliens."
U.S Homeland Security investigators received a tip on Dec. 10, 2022, concerning human smuggling by Hoang's spouse, Sen Nguyen.
"The anonymous tip described illegal immigrants being brought in, housed, and employed by Sen Nguyen and Quang Hoang at a new nail salon in the Detroit area," the affidavit added.
The allegations have not been proven in court.
Quang Dang Hoang is being charged with several crimes related to immigration laws, including bringing Thong into the U.S. at a place other than a designated port of entry and transporting, moving, or attempting to move Thong within the U.S. in violation of immigration laws.
Hoang is also charged with employing Thong in violation of immigration laws, conspiring with others to do so, and concealing, harboring or shielding Thong from detection in violation of immigration laws.
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