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Vt. man gets 3 months for role in human smuggling case

Associated Press
Published: 10/1/2019 5:17:50 PM
Modified: 10/1/2019 5:17:45 PM

BURLINGTON — A Vermont man was sentenced to three months in jail Tuesday for trying to help five Mexican citizens who had entered the country illegally from Canada on a known smuggling route.

Matthew Prue was taken into custody to begin serving the sentence for the misdemeanor conviction at the conclusion of the sentencing hearing in U.S. District Court in Burlington.

Prue pleaded guilty to the charge against him in April and was released with conditions pending the sentencing. His attorney had argued that Prue be sentenced to time served, but U.S. Magistrate Judge John Conroy rejected that, saying Prue had violated the conditions of his release by using illegal drugs and failing to keep in touch with authorities as required.

“All I want to do is take care of my children,” Prue, 40, told Conroy.

In court, Assistant United States Attorney Matthew Lasher said Prue, of Island Pond, had cooperated with the authorities. Lasher said the smuggling organization that Prue was working with was known to the Border Patrol, but that Prue had never been involved with the organization before and he played a small role in the case.

“A guy called me up and asked if I wanted to make some money,” Prue said during the hearing. “I said yes.”

Border Patrol agents detained the five people after spotting them along the road just inside the United States. They were later linked to Prue via electronic messages.

The Border Patrol has said that in 2018 the focus of human smuggling in the region was in the Derby, Vt., area where Prue had tried to pick up the immigrants earlier this year. Since then the focus of the smugglers has apparently moved west into upstate New York.

“I’d like to say that when their tactics change, ours change to identify them and dismantle them and when that happens, they move,” Chris Buskey, the Border Patrol agent in charge of the Burke Station in upstate New York, said Tuesday.

While the final toll for the just-completed fiscal year won’t be known for some time, the number of people arrested in the region was on track to double from last year’s figure of 736 with most of that increase in New York, said Michael McCarthy a spokesman for U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the umbrella agency that includes the Border Patrol. Last year’s figure was up from 449 in 2017 and 291 in 2016.

But the entire northern border apprehension numbers, which totaled 4,316 last year, are a fraction of those caught on the southern border where agents apprehended 396,579 people, statistics show.

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