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Human Smuggling/Trafficking
09/30/2011

Last of 21 convicted as a result of 'Operation Night Moves' sentenced to 5 years in prison

Houston, TX. – The last of a total of 21 people charged and convicted as a result of "Operation Night Moves" has been sentenced to prison, announced U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson on Friday. This investigation, dubbed Operation Night Moves, was conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI). It targeted transportation businesses engaged in moving illegal aliens from Houston to other cities.

Alejandro Tovar, 44, of Houston, was sentenced to 63 months in federal prison without parole for conspiring to transport illegal aliens within the United States for commercial advantage and private financial gain by U.S. District Judge Lee H. Rosenthal. Tovar was convicted in August 2010 and forfeited his interest in six vehicles as well as property located in the 8400 block of Bellamy Lane in Houston.

ICE HSI agents arrested all 21 defendants and encountered 83 illegal aliens while executing search warrants at nine different transport companies in February 2010 following the three-month investigation. Eight separate cases were later filed charging the defendants for acting as owners or managers of local transport companies. They accepted cash from alien smugglers to move undocumented aliens in vans and SUVs from Houston to other cities around the United States. All other convicted defendants have been sentenced to prison terms ranging from two to five years without parole.

Alejandro Tovar owned Super Express Van Tours, a passenger transportation company, from about March 2007 throughFebruary 2010. Although it had some hallmarks of a legitimate business, Super Express Van Tours catered to the needs of undocumented aliens. Tovar knew that nearly all of the company's passengers were undocumented aliens and Super Express Van Tours transported these aliens for profit throughout the United States in a manner designed to further the aliens' illegal presence in this country.

Super Express Van Tours dealt strictly in cash, permitting passengers - for an increased fee - to pay their travel fare upon arrival to their destination and would schedule trips primarily at night to lessen the likelihood of detection by law enforcement. The fares were typically higher than those charged by legitimate transportation companies such as Greyhound, but Tovar trained his employees to encode passenger manifests so that the fares would appear to be lower than what the aliens had actually paid. The company would also pay alien smugglers, or "coyotes," a commission for each passenger the coyote delivered to the business for transportation to his or her ultimate destination.

The scheme described above for Super Express Van Tours was similar to the scheme employed at other companies in related cases: Transportes Tres Estrellas de Oro, 7700 block of Park Place Blvd.; Transportes Banda, 5600 block of Harrisburg Blvd.; Transportes El Cadete and Los Angelitos, 2300 block of South Wayside Dr.; Transportes Medrano and Amigo, 6300 block of Harrisburg Blvd.; Transportes Sarahi, 7400 block of Tuck St.; Transportes Los Plebes, 500 block of Wayside Dr.; and El Pionero Van Tours, 5500 block of East Mt. Houston.

The case against Tovar was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Douglas Davis. The various other cases filed as a result of Operation Night Moves were prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys David Searle, Kebharu Smith, Hays Jenkins, Andino Reynal, former Assistant U.S. Attorney Matt Cooper and Special Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jim Manning and Demetrius Bivins.