PHOENIX — Three Mexican men face federal human smuggling and illegal reentry charges after the drop house they were allegedly operating in Mesa was discovered by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) special agents Wednesday.
Jesus Castillo-Mejia, 47, and Genaro Guzman-Guzman, 29, appeared in federal court Thursday, where they were charged with human smuggling. A third man, Marco Guzman-Guzman, 27, Genaro Guzman-Guzman's brother, was charged with illegally reentering the United States following a previous deportation order.
HSI special agents were first alerted to the drop house Wednesday when they received a tip that numerous suspected illegal aliens were being staged at a residence located on South Hobson Street in Mesa. When special agents responded to the location, they observed several people attempting to flee from the house. They pursued the individuals back into the house and obtained a federal search warrant to search the property. Inside the house, special agents discovered the defendants and 22 other illegal aliens, from Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador and Ecuador. The group included three women and one teenage boy. Special agents also found a 9 mm pistol when they searched the house.
"While the number of drop houses in the Phoenix area has declined over the past few years, this case illustrates that human smuggling remains a cold, ruthless business," said Matt Allen, special agent in charge of HSI Arizona. "To the smugglers, these people are simply a commodity, not human beings. HSI is committed to finding these criminals, arresting them, and working with our partners at the U.S. Attorney's Office to bring them to justice."
According to the criminal complaints, Castillo-Mejia showed the smuggled aliens a handgun, ordered them to stay in the house and threatened to pistol whip anyone who attempted to escape. He later demanded an additional $1,000 smuggling fee from one of the women in the group. Witnesses stated that Genaro Guzman-Guzman referred to the aliens as "pollos" or chickens, and pointed a gun at a woman in the group.
The investigation is ongoing.
HSI has encountered 18 drop houses containing more than 200 illegal aliens in the metropolitan Phoenix area since January.