FARGO -- A Canadian man who pleaded guilty to smuggling people across the U.S.-Canadian border in western North Dakota was sentenced to serve six months in prison Wednesday.
Victor Omoruyi, 41, of Regina, Sask., was arrested April 14, and charged with partnering with his wife, Michelle Omoruyi, to smuggle nine Nigerian citizens seeking asylum in Canada across the border near the Northgate port of entry in far northwest North Dakota and bringing two others back into the U.S.
He pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Ralph Erickson to one count of violating U.S. Code for transportation of aliens. Omoruyi has already served four months behind bars while his case was litigated.
Nigerian nationals seeking asylum in Canada paid the couple $2,000 per person to be smuggled into Canada, according to charges filed in federal court against Omoruyi.
The arrests came after a four-month investigation by the Integrated Border Enforcement Team, a joint U.S.-Canadian operation, according to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. He is a Canadian citizen who was born in Nigeria.
Agents on both sides of the border had been watching Omoruyi, who was flagged as a human smuggler bringing people from Minot into Canada, according to court documents. He crossed the border at the Portal point of entry on April 14, and told border officials he planned to shop in Minot and come home.
Border Patrol agents followed him to a motel in Minot, and later saw him enter his vehicle with five adults and four children. The group headed to the border.
About 2.5 miles west of the Northgate port of entry, deputies with the Burke County Sheriff’s Office observed the nine passengers exit and walk toward Canada, where a vehicle awaited them, according to court documents.
His wife, Michelle Omoruyi, has been charged with human smuggling in Canada. Canadian officials arrested her after she picked up the nine people her husband brought to the border once they walked into Canada. Her trial date is Aug. 14, according to CBC News.
Omoruyi was arrested shortly afterward by the Border Patrol along with two Nigerian nationals, who said they had come from Canada with no record of legal entry into the U.S., according to court documents.
Omoruyi was briefly held in Grand Forks County Correctional Center following his arrest.