FORT PAYNE, Ala. (WAFF) - DeKalb County authorities arrested nine men Tuesday night in connection with what they believe is a human trafficking operation.
Around 11 p.m. Tuesday, a DeKalb County patrol sergeant and K-9 deputy conducted a traffic stop on a vehicle from Texas.
Upon further investigation, authorities determined that the suspects were in the United States illegally and were attempting to conduct a human trafficking operation. Authorities believe it was a human smuggling operation to transport them into the country from the southern border.
Department of Homeland Security investigators were called, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainers were placed on the subjects.
The case is still ongoing and currently under investigation, but the office said it appears two of the men were traffickers.
David Pinkleton is with the Alabama Human Trafficking Task Force and said there’s an important distinction between trafficking and smuggling.
“When you think about the human trafficking it’s exploitation based. You think about the sex trafficking, you think about the labor trafficking. There’s some forced fraud or coercion that’s actually involved,” he said.
“Smuggling side is actually transportation-based.”
Immigration paralegal Aylene Valentin says the details of the arrest don't suggest trafficking, but anything's possible.
“The accusations can be made very easily. I think it needs to be thoroughly investigated, I think that people sometimes, authorities sometimes jump to conclusions.”
Federal charges are pending, and the men are in ICE custody.