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Jun 16, 2014 9:20 PM by Associated Press

Man charged with smuggling Armenians into US

SAN DIEGO (AP) - Federal authorities say they've arrested the alleged leader of a plot to illegally bring Armenian immigrants into the United States.

The U.S. attorney's office says 44-year-old Grigor Chatalyan pleaded not guilty Monday.

Prosecutors allege he brought Armenians through the U.S.-Mexico border using authentic U.S. immigration documents obtained with fake identities.

Federal officials say Chatalyan's customers arrived in Mexico by traveling through Moscow, where they were issued counterfeit Russian passports. Customers allegedly paid Chatlayan and his crew up to $18,000 to illegally enter the U.S.

Chatalyan was arrested Saturday. The North Hollywood resident faces up to 15 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Two other men who were allegedly involved in the smuggling ring were arrested last November.

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