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Bar owner smuggled aliens from Ireland

Buffalo pub operator Bridget A. Campbell spent part of 2003 and much of 2004 helping people from Ireland settle in the United States.

For a fee, she made some of their travel arrangements and got them New York State driver's licenses.

There was a problem with all this: It was illegal.

Campbell, 37, of Depew, faces a June 9 sentencing date in U.S. District Court after admitting that she smuggled illegal aliens from Ireland into the United States.

Federal prosecutors said she recently admitted arranging for at least 30 people from Ireland to illegally cross from Fort Erie, Ont., into Buffalo.

While taking a felony plea deal, Campbell admitted she hired people who worked and drank at her bar -- Campbell's Pub at 1591 Niagara St. -- to pick up aliens in Fort Erie and drive them over the Peace Bridge into Buffalo.

From there, authorities believe, most of them traveled to New York City, where many got jobs in the food service industry.

"It appears that the people she was smuggling were not criminal types. They were people who want to live and work in the U.S.," one law enforcement official said on Tuesday.

Campbell and her attorney, Michael Blotnik, could not be reached to comment. The bar operator's husband, William John, said he was not familiar with the details of the smuggling operation and did not wish to comment on it.

Authorities said other people were involved in the scheme with Campbell. Peter Smith, a supervisory agent with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement section of Homeland Security, said the investigation is continuing.

The smuggling took place between December 2003 and August 2004, according to court papers. Authorities said Campbell's role in the smuggling began after the Irish nationals traveled from Ireland to Canada, and then to Fort Erie.

"Campbell got general descriptions of the persons to be smuggled into the United States. [She] obtained valid New York driver's licenses resembling the physical descriptions of the Irish nationals," prosecutor Gretchen Wylegala said in court papers.

The prosecutor said Campbell hired people who worked at, or patronized, her bar to drive to Fort Erie to bring the aliens over the Peace Bridge into Buffalo. Campbell also paid them to pass the driver's licenses along to the aliens, and coach them on what questions might be asked by bridge inspectors. While one car often carried the illegal aliens, Campbell often hired a second driver to carry the aliens' luggage in a second car, authorities said.

Campbell admitted that she received a fee of $1,200 per alien. She then paid $300 to each person who agreed to drive the aliens over the bridge, $100 to each person who agreed to pick up luggage and $50 to anyone who agreed to become a passenger in one of the smuggling cars.

So far, authorities have not disclosed how the aliens got from Buffalo to New York City or other destinations in the United States.

Under her plea deal, Bridget Campbell agreed to forfeit $36,000 to the government.

e-mail: dherbeck@buffnews.com

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