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Human Smuggling/Trafficking
01/29/2009

5 family members sentenced for human smuggling

Defendants were based in the Bryan and College Station, Texas, area

LAREDO, Texas - Five members of the Ortiz family who reside in Bryan and College Station, Texas, were sentenced on Wednesday for human smuggling. These sentences were announced by acting U.S. Attorney Tim Johnson, Southern District of Texas; the case was investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

Porfirio Ortiz, 38, Baudel Ortiz, 31, Calixtro Ortiz, 52, Bernardino Ortiz, 49 and Sandra Ortiz, 32, all of Bryan, Texas, were sentenced by U.S. District Judge Micaela Alvarez for their involvement in a five-year conspiracy to transport illegal aliens for financial gain. Porfirio and Baudel Ortiz received statutory maximum sentences of 10 years imprisonment. Calixtro and Bernardino Ortiz were each sentenced to 75 months; Sandra Ortiz was sentenced to 55 months. All defendants except Sandra Ortiz were ordered to pay a $5,000 fine.

The Ortiz defendants led a wide-ranging and highly organized conspiracy that transported aliens from the U.S.-Mexico border to Bryan. The organization smuggled an estimated 1,000 aliens into the United States. According to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and the Texas Department of Public Safety, more than 40 seizures of illegal aliens in South Texas have been linked to the Ortiz organization.

According to the convicted defendants, once the smuggled aliens crossed the Rio Grande River, they were housed in "stash houses" near the border. Shortly afterwards, they were hidden in horse trailers with a live horse to avoid detection, and transported through the various south Texas Border Patrol checkpoints. From Bryan, the aliens dispersed to join family members throughout the United States. They paid their smuggling fees by Western Union wire transfer, or by other means. The investigation revealed smuggling payments of more than $800,000 in Western Union wire transfers to the Ortiz defendants during the time of the conspiracy.

In addition to those sentenced Wednesday, ICE also indentified other co-conspirators in the case. Darcy Ortiz-Quezada, 24, of Bryan, and Christopher Gene Torres, 24, of Burnet, Texas, were sentenced Nov. 20 for their participation in this conspiracy. Ortiz -Quezada was sentenced to two months imprisonment followed by two months home confinement; Torres received 10 months imprisonment. Charles Salyers, 30, of College Station, was sentenced Jan. 27 to 18 months imprisonment.

This was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert S. Johnson, Southern District of Texas.