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Turkish Pedicab Drivers In San Diego Ordered To Leave Country

Fifteen Turkish nationals have left the U.S. and nine others are expected to leave soon following federal orders to leave the country for operating pedicabs illegally in downtown San Diego.

The 15 are students from Turkish colleges detained Aug. 30 as U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents served arrest warrants at four San Diego locations, according to U-T San Diego. Agents suspect they were caught up in a criminal ring that recruits young foreigners to supply cheap labor to pedicab owners, the newspaper reported.

"Basically criminal facilitators have gotten involved as middlemen, making money connecting these young adults with willing employers here in San Diego,'' Michael Carney, deputy special agent in charge of the local ICE field office, told U-T San Diego.

According to ICE, the students paid deposits of several thousands of dollars to facilitators who arranged for permits, housing and leases to operate the cabs.

"They weren't completely unwitting in this,'' Carney said. "There is some culpability on their part.''

Most of the Turkish nationals lied on immigration applications about their work intentions or supplied false Social Security numbers to San Diego city officials when they sought pedicab permits, ICE said.

The federal government forbade foreign students from working as pedicab operators in the U.S. following the high-profile death of a San Diego tourist who died after falling off one of the three-wheeled cycles in 2009.

The 24 Turks ordered to leave the country range in age from 20 to 25 and include 20 men and four women, U-T San Diego reported.

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