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Human Smuggling/Trafficking
10/06/2009

3 plead guilty in a Pennsylvania human trafficking scheme

One of the six indicted defendants in this 2007 alien smuggling operation remains a fugitive

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - Two men from Miami were sentenced Friday in West Palm Beach District Court for their participation in an alien smuggling conspiracy that resulted in death.

U.S. District Judge Daniel T. K. Hurley sentenced Aurelio Sanchez-Ortega, 21, to 75 months in prison to be followed by 36 months of supervised release. The judge also sentenced Angel Julio Navarro-Lliteras, 36, to 19 months in prison to be followed by 36 months of supervised release. Navarro-Lliteras received credit for time already served.

On Nov. 14 and 15, 2007, the U.S. Border Patrol (USBP) received information from the Juno Beach Police Department regarding three possible smuggling operations. Within hours, the Town of Palm Beach Police Department notified USBP that 34 migrants had landed. The U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) responded and discovered that one of the migrants, Carlos Alberto Pons-Arias, drowned as he tried to swim to shore on Palm Beach. The migrants consisted of 35 Cuban nationals, including 17 men, two juvenile males, 12 women, three juvenile females, and the deceased man who drowned. All the migrants stated that they recently swam ashore from a boat that traveled directly from Cuba. The incident was referred to ICE special agents in West Palm Beach for investigation.

On June 12, 2008, six individuals were charged in a 38-count indictment on charges of conspiracy to smuggle aliens; they included: Aurelio Sanchez-Ortega; Angel Julio Navarro-Lliteras; Duany Jimenez, 26, all of Miami; Makiel Soto, 30, of Homestead; Luis Orlando Perez, 31, of Loxahatchee; and Angel Arce-Perez, 43, of Hialeah. ICE special agents arrested five of the defendants. Angel Arce-Perez remains a fugitive.

A second superseding indictment was subsequently returned, charging Duany Jimenez, Angel Julio Navarro-Lliteras and Makiel Soto with conspiracy to smuggle aliens. The superseding indictment also charged Luis Perez, Aurelia Sanchez Ortega and Angel Arce-Perez with various other federal violations.

Sanchez-Ortega was the captain of the 33-foot smuggling boat that brought the 35 migrants from Cuba to the United States on Nov. 15, 2007. Co-defendant Navarro-Lliteras assisted in the failed smuggling attempt.

To date, all five defendants arrested have pleaded guilty and were sentenced to prison. On Jan. 14, Duany Jimenez pleaded guilty to conspiracy to smuggle aliens and was sentenced to 36 months in prison to be followed by five years of supervised release. On March 20, Luis Orlando Perez was sentenced to 120 months in prison to be followed by five years of supervised release; and on May 22, Makiel Soto was sentenced to 50 months incarceration to be followed by four years of supervised release.

Luis Arce Perez is believed to have fled to Cuba and is armed and dangerous. ICE urges anyone with information on his whereabouts to contact 1-866-DHS-2ICE (347-2423). A photograph of this fugitive defendant is attached to this release.

The investigation was conducted by ICE with the assistance of the following agencies: USCG, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), the West Palm Beach Police Department, the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office, and the Town of Palm Beach Police Department.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Emalyn Webber and John McMillan prosecuted this case.