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Human Smuggling/Trafficking
12/01/2008

BEST team arrests 3 allegedly linked to drowning death

U.S. Marshals Service assists with arrest of 4th suspect in Mexico

Agent escorting man
Agent escorting man

EL PASO, Texas - Three members of an alien smuggling organization, who are allegedly linked to the drowning death of an illegal alien, are in federal custody after members of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Border Enforcement Security Task force (BEST) arrested them here last week.

Daniel Magallanes, 35, Eva Araceli Corral, 31, and Nicolas Martinez-Valdivia, 42, were arrested by the local BEST agents and officers. A fourth person, Alfonso Corral-Marrufo, 55, was also arrested in Mexico by local authorities. All four are charged with conspiracy to smuggle aliens resulting in death. They are all also named in a six-count indictment handed up by a federal grand jury May 21.

Magallanes and Eva Araceli Corral are named in all six counts:
conspiracy to smuggle aliens resulting in death; aid and abet bringing in aliens resulting in death; aid and abet smuggling aliens into the U.S. without authorization for financial gain; transporting aliens for financial gain; harboring aliens for financial gain; and encouraging and inducing the illegal entry of aliens for financial gain, resulting in death.

BEST initiated its case Oct. 29, 2007 after U.S. Border Patrol agents assigned to Operation Against Smugglers Initiative on Safety and Security (OASISS) turned over information about the death of an illegal alien. Fritman Cardenas-Reyna, a Mexican national, had crossed illegally into the United States among a group of others, and was trying to get across the American Canal when he drowned. The American Canal runs parallel and north of the Rio Grande River, which is the international boundary between the United States and Mexico.

The BEST investigation revealed that Cardenas-Reyna had made arrangements with the alien smuggling organization to be smuggled into the interior of the United States.

Corral-Marrufo, a Mexican citizen who resides in Mexico and is Eva Araceli Corral's father, was arrested by Mexican authorities assisted by the U.S. Marshals Service under a provisional arrest warrant. The ICE Attaché office in Ciudad Juarez worked jointly with Mexican authorities to locate Corral-Marrufo.

Magallanes, a U.S. permanent resident, and Eva Araceli Corral, a U.S. citizen, live in Anthony, N.M. Martinez-Valdivia is a laser visa holder who was living in Canutillo, Texas, where he allegedly harbored the illegal aliens smuggled by the criminal enterprise.

"To combat ruthless alien smugglers, our 'BEST' team's most effective tools are the cooperation, coordination and intelligence sharing among the agencies that make up the task force," said Julio Velez, acting special agent in charge of the ICE Office of Investigations in El Paso. "The smuggler's sole motivation is lining their pockets, regardless of the human lives they put in harm's way. ICE's mission is put them out of business, and behind bars."

"BEST" is a U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), ICE-led national initiative created along the U.S.-Mexico border. The BEST task force in El Paso, one of four such Teams, was formed in October 2006.

El Paso's BEST task force members include: ICE; U.S. Customs and Border Protection's Border Patrol and Office of Field Operations; the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA); the U.S. Department of State; the El Paso County Sheriff's Office; the El Paso Police Department; and the U.S. Attorney's Office, Western District of Texas.

Officers from federal, state and local law enforcement agencies are collocated in the task force to share information. This close coordination among law enforcement agencies also helps to identify and eliminate cross-border criminal organizations, such as alien smuggling networks, and their supporting infrastructures that sustain them.

In the course of its work, the "BEST" team develops information that helps it identify "drop houses," warehouses and hotels known or suspected to harbor illegal aliens and narcotics in the area.

Since it was formed, the El Paso "BEST" team has identified several alien and narcotic smuggling organizations with ties to violent prison and street gangs on both sides of the border.