Making Immigration Happen
Chicago Woman Arrested for Selling Fraudulent Identity Documents to Illegal Aliens
A woman was arrested Wednesday, February 13, 2013, on charges she allegedly sold fraudulent identity documents to illegal aliens. These charges resulted from an investigation conducted by U.S. Immigra

Tag Archives: alien trafficking

82 Freed from Horrific Alien Trafficking Stash House

An alleged hostage situation resulted in 82 individuals being freed, and four suspected human smugglers arrested, Wednesday, September 19, 2012, from a human smuggling stash house by agents from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations and officers from the Houston Police Department (HPD).

A call was received Tuesday, September 18, 2012, from the mother of a 16 year-old female being held hostage in the Houston area. HSI and HPD initiated the investigation, resulting in the rescue of the teenager on Wednesday, September 19, 2012, in a parking lot located near I-10 and Gessner St.

Based on information developed at the scene, HSI identified a stash house, operating out of a residence located on the 3400 block of Boxelder Dr. in west Houston, suspected of holding 70 individuals who allegedly been smuggled into the United States. Additional information indicated that the individuals inside were being held against their will by smugglers carrying firearms.

A total of 86 individuals were discovered at the residence from the following countries: Costa  Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Mexico. Of the 86 individuals encountered, 62 were male, 15 were female, and nine were juveniles. Their ages range from 14 to 48 years-old and four individuals encountered at the house are suspected of being human smugglers from Mexico.

“During the course of these investigations illegal aliens smuggled into the United States can become kidnapping victims while awaiting the payoff of smuggling fees,” said Sean McElroy, deputy special agent in charge of HSI Houston. “HSI is committed to using every available resource to identify, investigate and arrest those transnational criminal organizations involved in crimes related to hostage taking as well as human smuggling.”

All 82 freed from the stash house are currently in ICE custody and are undergoing administrative and medical processing. The investigation is ongoing.

Former CBP Agents Convicted for Extensive Alien Smuggling Ring

Two former San Diego-area U.S. Customs and Border Protection Border Patrol agents face up to 50 years in prison following their conviction Friday, August 10, 2012, for operating a lucrative human smuggling ring that brought hundreds of Mexicans and Brazilians illegally into the United States using official agency vehicles.

Raul Villarreal, 42, and his brother, Fidel Villarreal, 44, both of San Diego, and a co-defendant, Armando Garcia, 44, of Tijuana, Mexico, who acted as a foot guide for the ring, were found guilty by a jury on multiple felony counts of conspiracy to smuggle aliens, money laundering and receiving bribes. The defendants will be sentenced in November by U.S. District Court Judge John Houston. In addition to prison time, the defendants could be required to pay more than $1.25 million in fines.

A fourth co-defendant, Claudia Gonzalez, of Tijuana, pleaded guilty in December 2009 to conspiracy to smuggle aliens for financial gain, bribery and money laundering. Gonzalez is scheduled to be sentenced in September.

The verdicts of August 10, 2012, are the latest developments in a probe by U.S Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR), aided by ICE Homeland Security Investigations, that began after the agency received a tip in 2005 involving allegations of public corruption tied to an alien smuggling ring.

“Raul and Fidel Villarreal committed an egregious breach of the deep trust placed in DHS employees by the American people they swore to protect and serve,” said Joe Jeronimo, special agent in charge for OPR Western Region. “While their actions are atypical of the dedication and integrity demonstrated by the vast majority of DHS employees, this verdict should nonetheless send a message about the serious consequences facing those who would exploit their positions and violate the law. The ICE Office of Professional Responsibility and the DHS Office of Inspector General will continue to aggressively investigate such allegations and seek to prosecute perpetrators to the fullest extent of the law.”

All four defendants were arrested in Tijuana in October 2008 on arrest warrants obtained by ICE. The defendants were then extradited in March 2009 to the United States to face the federal charges.

According to court documents, ICE special agents conducted extensive surveillance of the defendants’ smuggling operations, using surveillance aircraft, GPS devices and video cameras mounted on poles along the California-Mexico border. The video showed Fidel Villarreal picking up groups of illegal aliens with his official Border Patrol vehicle and transporting them to designated staging locations to await their transportation into the interior.

U.S. and Mexico Meet for Human Trafficking Summit

More than 100 representatives from the government and private sectors, including high-level law enforcement representatives from the U.S. and Mexico, convened in Los Angeles Thursday, July 12, 2012, for a binational summit to strategize on ways to enhance existing efforts to combat human trafficking in both countries.

The daylong conference, organized by U.S. Immigration and Custom Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the Mexican Consul General in Los Angeles, focused on ways the U.S. and Mexico can work more closely together to detect trafficking activity and prosecute suspected perpetrators. Featured speakers included Nelly Montealegre Diaz, who oversees the Mexican Attorney General’s special prosecutions unit involving crimes of violence against women and human trafficking.

“For everyone at this week’s meeting, combatting human trafficking is a top priority, but despite that, we believe a significant number of trafficking cases continue to go undetected,” said Claude Arnold, special agent in charge for HSI Los Angeles. “The goal of the summit was to share ideas on further steps we can take together to bolster efforts to prevent this reprehensible crime.”

“No human being deserves to be trafficked, abused or exploited,” said David Figueroa, the consul general of Mexico in Los Angeles. “We must not allow our borders to be barriers in the ongoing effort to combat this problem. Our shared goal is to achieve a society free of human trafficking and human smuggling.”

Topics covered during the conference included an overview of current human trafficking investigative strategies in both the U.S. and Mexico. Representatives from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles and the Mexican Attorney General’s Office discussed case prosecutions. Other speakers detailed the current services available to assist trafficking victims and the vital role such support plays in these cases.

Conference organizers say the meeting was very productive. Participants agreed to look for ways to expand the existing information sharing between the two countries on human trafficking cases. Beyond that, the discussions resulted in a renewed commitment by both countries to seek new and innovative ways to collaborate on human trafficking enforcement efforts.

Hearings Set for Two Leaders of Alien Trafficking and Prostitution Ring

Two individuals were scheduled to have detention hearings Wednesday, June 27, 2012, in El Paso federal court in connection with a prostitution scheme involving a minor. The hearings were announced by U.S. Attorney Robert Pitman, Western District of Texas; FBI Special Agent in Charge Mark Morgan; and Special Agent in Charge Dennis Ulrich of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) El Paso.

Charles Marquez, 51, ofEl Paso, and Martha Jimenez Sanchez, 38, of Juarez, Mexico, were both charged after a federal grand jury returned a five-count indictment on the following crimes: one count of sex trafficking children, one count of conspiracy to coerce and entice illegal aliens to engage in sexual activity, and importing an illegal alien for immoral purposes. Marquez is also charged with one count of coercion and enticement; and Jimenez is additionally charged with one count of transportation for prostitution.

The indictment alleges that from August 2007 through February 2012, the defendants aided and abetted one another, and conspired to implement a prostitution scheme involving a minor. The defendants recruited females in Mexico by placing ads in a Ciudad  Juarez, Mexico, newspaper offering jobs in the United States. Once recruited, the defendants arranged to transport the females to El Paso and harbor them in local motels to work as prostitutes.

Federal authorities arrested Marquez June 21, and Sanchez the following day. If convicted of sex trafficking children, the defendants face between 10 years to life in federal prison. Importing an illegal alien for immoral purposes is punishable by up to 20 years imprisonment; and conspiracy to coerce and entice a minor to engage in sexual activity is punishable by up to five years imprisonment. Also, Marquez faces up to 20 years imprisonment if convicted of the coercion charge; Jimenez, up to 10 years imprisonment upon conviction of the transportation for prostitution charge.

Marquez is scheduled to have his detention hearing Thursday before U.S. Magistrate Judge Richard Mesa, and Jimenez before U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert F. Castaneda.

This case was investigated jointly by the FBI and HSI as part of the nationwide Operation “Cross Country” which focuses on child prostitution.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Rifian Newaz, Western District of Texas, is prosecuting the case.