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Human Smuggling/Trafficking
09/25/2012

4 charged in Houston human smuggling case involving 82 illegal aliens

HOUSTON — Four Mexican nationals were charged Tuesday in federal court in a massive human smuggling case that resulted in the rescue of 82 illegal aliens in a Houston residence, announced U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson, Southern District of Texas.

The investigation is being conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the Texas Department of Public Safety and the Houston Police Department.

The criminal complaint, filed Tuesday, charges the following four men with harboring, transporting, and conspiracy to harbor and transport illegal aliens: Luis Trejo-Onofre, 30, Jose Santos-Solorzano, 24, Jose Victor Perez-Olivas, 42, and Gumecindo Jaime-Martinez, 37. They are expected to make their initial appearances before U.S. Magistrate Judge George C. Hanks Wednesday.

On Sept. 18, a Nicaraguan national flagged down a Houston police officer to report that her 17-year-old daughter was being held by an alien smuggling organization that was allegedly extorting additional smuggling fees as a condition of her release. The woman, who had traveled from San Antonio to pick up her daughter from the smuggling organization, was allegedly directed to wire an additional $1,700 to Jalisco, Mexico, via Western Union. According to the complaint, the smugglers told her she better deposit the money if she wanted to see her daughter again.

After several calls, the alleged smuggler told the woman to meet at a local drug store at the intersection of Gessner and Interstate 10, and he would let her have her daughter for $1,500, according to the complaint. An undercover special agent accompanied the woman to the meeting and observed the girl in the suspects' vehicle. Soon after, special agents and officers blocked the vehicle and activated emergency lights and sirens. The complaint indicates Trejo-Onofre and Santos-Solorzano were in the two front seats, but refused to open the doors and rammed one of the vehicles surrounding them.

HSI special agents broke one of the car windows, rescued the girl, and took the suspects into custody. The minor female stated that she was held along with several other illegal aliens, including children, who were allegedly being held by armed smugglers and were often mistreated.

The residence was soon located on the 3400 block of Boxelder in Houston. HSI special agents observed and followed Perez-Olivas as he left to purchase food at a local store and then returned to the residence. Special agents and officers then began to secure the residence and identify those inside.

According to the complaint, most of the male subjects being held in the house were only wearing underwear. One of the agents recognized Perez-Olivas among the group whom several of the aliens pointed out as a smuggler as well as Jaime-Martinez.

Some of the aliens identified the four charged and their alleged actions. The complaint also includes allegations that some of the aliens were hit, kicked, punched and some were locked in a closet for long periods of time and fed minimally. The alleged smugglers, some of whom carried weapons according to the complaint, also ordered some of the aliens to remove their clothing.

Eighty-two aliens were being held in the house from six different countries; eight were juveniles. At the time of the arrests, several weapons were also seized.

If convicted, each of the men charged faces up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Doug Davis and Celia Moyer, Southern District of Texas, are prosecuting the case.

A criminal complaint is an accusation of criminal conduct, not evidence. A defendant is presumed innocent unless and until convicted through due process of law.