AKWESASNE (WWTI) — Authorities arrested seven people over a failed human smuggling attempt. According to the Akwesasne Mohawk Police Service, suspicious activity was reported to the agency on April 29 regarding a boat containing multiple subjects traveling from Canada near Cornwall, Ontario into the U.S.

The Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe Police Department responded and found the vessel taking on water and sinking in the Saint Regis River in Akwesasne. Border Patrol Agents and the Hogansburg-Akwesasne Volunteer Fire Department were then notified and arrived on the scene to find the reported vessel nearly underwater.

One reportedly left the sinking boat to make his way to the shoreline. The Hogansburg-Akwesasne Fire Department then deployed a boat and was able to recover six subjects in distress. Police said that due to nearly freezing water temperatures, all seven individuals were evaluated and treated for hypothermia by medical professionals. They later determined that there were no life jackets or other safety equipment on board.

Alien smuggling is a felony carrying a penalty of a fine and up to 10 years in prison for each violation. Upon release, all seven suspects were arrested by border patrol agents and transported to the border patrol station for processing.

According to police, six were citizens of India. They ranged in age from 19 to 21 and were charged with improper entry by alien in violation of 8 USC 1325. The seventh subject was confirmed to be a U.S. citizen. They were charged with alien smuggling in violation of 8 USC 1324.

“Outstanding cooperation between law enforcement and rescue services prevented what could have been a horrific tragedy,” said Saint Regis Mohawk Tribal Police Chief Matthew Rouke. “I emphasize that human smuggling is illegal and poses a significant danger to the Akwesasne community. We don’t know the intentions or vaccination status of smuggled individuals, but more importantly, the time and resources spent in a rescue effort unnecessarily risk the lives of our first responders and our already strained emergency response services.” 

“I commend our Tribal partners for their diligent response and preventing what could’ve been a catastrophic situation,” said Border Patrol Agent Wage Laughman. “Human smuggling is not only a crime but extremely dangerous. Smugglers do not care about safety or human life; they only care about profits.”