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02/11/2008

2 Cuban felons receive decades-long prison sentences

Officers discovered firearms, narcotics and more than $4,000 in counterfeit U.S. currency

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. - Two Cuban brothers were sentenced here Monday to 35 years and 19 1/2 years in prison for illegally residing in the United States and unlawfully possessing firearms and drugs. This sentence was announced by U.S. Attorney Charles R. Gross, Western District of Michigan; U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and other federal, state and local law enforcement agencies investigated the case.

Alejandro Serrano Domenech, 35, was sentenced to 420 months in prison and his brother, William Serrano Domenech, 31, received a sentence of 234 months from U.S. District Court Judge Janet T. Neff. Alejandro Domenech was also sentenced for possessing counterfeit U.S. currency.

On April 4, 2006, Clinton County Sheriff's officers, Michigan State Police (MSP), and Dewitt Township Police Department attempted to locate a person wanted on a State of Michigan arrest warrant at a local motel. Immediately after officers knocked on the motel room door, an MSP trooper positioned behind the motel saw the bathroom light turn on and observed the shadow of a male attempting to put something in the toilet. Concluding that evidence was likely being destroyed, the trooper opened the bathroom window and discovered Alejandro Domenech trying to flush a plastic bag down the toilet. When the trooper shouted to stop, Domenech took the bag from the toilet, put it in his mouth, and ran from the bathroom into the motel room. There he encountered Clinton County deputies and the Dewitt officer who had entered the room after hearing the struggle in the bathroom. Domenech fought with the officers, but was subdued and arrested. During the struggle, he spit out a plastic bag of crack and cocaine, and dropped a switchblade knife.

Three other people were found in the room: a 14-year-old female runaway and a woman, both from Albuquerque, N.M., and defendant William Domenech. The officers secured the room and obtained a search warrant. While executing the search warrant, officers discovered and seized: three loaded firearms; distribution quantities of narcotics that included cocaine, crack cocaine and marijuana; drug-trafficking paraphernalia; and more than $4,000 in counterfeit U.S. currency.

ICE entered the investigation when the Domenech brothers were identified as Cuban nationals. The Domeneches were illegally present in the United States and they were also previously convicted felons. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) confirmed that two of the firearms recovered from the motel room had originally been sold to an Albuquerque, N.M., resident.

ICE agents contacted the owner of the stolen guns. They learned that the defendants had stolen all three weapons in an armed home invasion in March 2006, and that they had threatened the owner's life if he notified authorities. Subsequent investigation also discovered that the Domeneches had traveled from New Mexico to the Lansing, Mich., area in late March with the 14-year-old girl and two women, dealing drugs from various motels in the area until they were discovered and arrested.

"The public benefits when law enforcement agencies work together on these complex cases," said Brian M. Moskowitz, special agent in charge of the Office of Investigations for Michigan and Ohio. "Illegal immigration, gun trafficking, and drug trafficking are often linked together. Only by using our combined authorities can we truly make a difference to combat crime."

The arrest, federal indictment, prosecution and conviction of the defendants was a direct result of the cooperative efforts among ICE, the Clinton County Sheriff's Department, the Michigan State Police, the Dewitt Township Police Department, the U.S. Secret Service, ATF, and the Drug Enforcement Administration.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Hagen W. Frank and Elisa Castrolugo, Western District of Michigan, prosecuted this case.