United States Flag
Official Website of the Department of Homeland Security

Report Crimes: Email or Call 1-866-DHS-2-ICE

Human Smuggling/Trafficking
07/09/2009

Alien smugglers who held Cuban nationals for ransom sentenced to prison

MIAMI - Five alien smugglers that were residing in Miami were sentenced Wednesday to between two and one-half to five years in federal prison following a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) investigation.

On July 8, 2009, Nelson Martinez Almeida, 27, Rudivaldo Mojena, 29, Juliet Toledo Duartes, 32, Ricardo Mojena Velazquez, 31, and Lazaro Martinez Munoz, 45, were sentenced by U.S. District Judge Paul C. Huck. They have been charged with, among other things, conspiring to commit alien smuggling, and alien smuggling for the purpose of commercial advantage and private financial gain. Almeida, Mojena, and Duartes were sentenced to 60 months imprisonment followed by three years of supervised release. Velazquez and Munoz were sentenced to 34 and 30 months imprisonment followed by three years of supervised release.

Almeida, Mojena, Duartes, and Velazquez proceeded to trial and a jury convicted Almeida, Mojena, and Duartes on all 25 counts of indictment and convicted Velazquez with conspiring to commit alien smuggling. Munoz had previously pled guilty to conspiring to commit alien smuggling and alien smuggling for the purpose of commercial advantage and private financial gain.

The defendants' co-conspirators, Niovel Chirino Alvarez, 33, and Lazaro Martinez Padron, 21, were tried earlier and convicted of conspiring to commit alien smuggling and alien smuggling for profit for the purpose of commercial advantage and private financial gain amongst other charges. U.S. District Court Judge Donald L. Graham sentenced Chirino Alvarez to 60 months imprisonment and Martinez Padron to 63 months imprisonment followed by three years of supervised release.

According to the indictment and trial testimony, Almeida and Martinez Padron traveled to Cuba and loaded a vessel with numerous Cuban nationals. Mojena and Munoz then rendezvoused with Almeida and Martinez Padron's vessel off the west coast of Florida and took aboard approximately half of the Cuban nationals.

ICE special agents received information that the Cuban nationals were being held by the smugglers and would not be released until payment of $10,000 per Cuban national was made. ICE agents established contact with the smugglers and a transaction was conducted in exchange for one of the Cuban nationals. At the scene, ICE special agents arrested Chirino Alvarez and Martinez Padron and took custody of eight Cuban nationals who were being held for ransom. Subsequently, pursuant to the investigation, the remaining five individuals listed above were arrested.

Acting U. S. Attorney Jeffrey H. Sloman commended the investigative efforts of ICE's Office of Investigations in Miami.

The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Adam Schwartz and Sean McLaughlin.