Arizona trial to highlight smuggling tactic

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By Sarah Blais By Sarah Blais

PHOENIX (AP) -- A trial is underway for an acknowledged immigrant smuggler accused of killing three rivals in Arizona who hatched an unsuccessful plot seven years ago to kidnap the smuggler's customers.

Attorneys on Monday began making opening statements in Maricopa County Superior Court in Phoenix in the trial of 31-year-old Nery Efrain Blas Ortiz.

The trial will highlight a lucrative yet dangerous smuggling tactic.

It involves the customers of a given smuggling group being stolen by rivals who plan to later collect ransoms and eliminate the overhead and trouble of sneaking people across the border.

In such schemes, armed smugglers will usually pull over a rival's smuggling vehicle, forcibly take the customers inside, bring them to a stash house and pressure friends and relatives of the captives to scrape together enough money for the ransom.