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Human Smuggling/Trafficking
01/30/2008

3 sentenced for alien smuggling following ICE investigation

Smugglers operated in Laredo, Hebbronville, San Antonio, and Nuevo Laredo, Mexico

LAREDO - Two illegal aliens and a U.S. citizen were sentenced here Tuesday following their earlier guilty pleas for alien smuggling. These sentences resulted from an investigation conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

All three men were indicted in June. U.S. District Judge Micaela Alvarez imposed the following sentences:

  • Oscar Laza-Villatoro, 31, a citizen of El Salvador, was sentenced to four years in federal prison. He pleaded guilty to conspiracy to transport illegal aliens Oct. 10.
  • Jose Escobar Ruiz, 43, a Mexican national, was sentenced to five years in federal prison. He pleaded guilty to conspiracy to transport illegal aliens Aug. 22.
  • Louise Martinez, 23, a U.S. citizen and Laredo resident, was sentenced to 18 months in federal prison. He pleaded guilty to conspiracy to transport illegal aliens Nov. 7.

"ICE and our law enforcement partners in Laredo will continue to work together to detect and apprehend lawbreakers," said Jerry Robinette, special agent in charge of the ICE Office of Investigations in San Antonio. "We will pursue and prosecute anyone who tries to use U.S. territories as a springboard to smuggle illegal aliens into the United States."

ICE began working this investigation in the summer of 2006 after first being contacted by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), another Department of Homeland Security agency. CBP had arrested four suspected alien transporters who later provided substantial information leading to the arrest of six smugglers operating in Laredo; Hebbronville; San Antonio; and Nuevo Laredo, Mexico. They reportedly smuggled into the United States more than 200 illegal aliens per week.

The investigation revealed that the smugglers had distinct work roles. For example, Laza-Villatoro collected smuggling fees; Escobar-Ruiz organized the stash house locations in Laredo; and Martinez was the guide and transporter.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Gracie Linburg Rodriguez, Southern District of Texas, prosecuted this case.

ICE encourages the public to report illegal activity to its toll-free hotline: 1- 866 DHS-2ICE, which is monitored 24 hours a day.