CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas - The convicted leader of an alien smuggling organization was sentenced on Tuesday to more than 15 years in prison for transporting illegal aliens that resulted in injuries to 18 individuals. The sentence was announced by U. S. Attorney José Angel Moreno, S. District of Texas. The investigation was conducted by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Office of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).
Servando "El Chino" Alvarado-Casas, 29, a Mexican national illegally residing in Houston, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge John Rainey to a total of 190 months imprisonment. Alvarado-Casas was also sentenced to 120 months imprisonment for his conviction for being a felon possessing firearms; the two sentences will be served concurrently. Alvarado-Casas pleaded guilty in July to conspiracy to transport illegal aliens. Alvarado-Casas is subject to deportation after he completes his prison sentence.
The charges stem from a Nov. 24, 2009 single-vehicle accident in Jim Wells County resulting in injury to 17 illegal aliens and the driver, Patricio Rebollar Jr., 29, of Houston. The investigation by agents with ICE HSI and the U.S. Customs and Border Protection's Border Patrol (BP) led to identifying, arresting and charging the following eight members of the smuggling organization: Herman Valdez, 29, and Nuvia Nancy Martinez, 25, of Houston, both arrested the following day; Jorge Luis Gomez-Rosales, 24; Juan Manuel Valdez-Fuentes, 26; Jaime Roman Bustamonte, 27; Victor Manuel Campuzano, 23; Miguel Alvarado-Casas, 36; and the leader of the organization, "El Chino" Alvarado-Casas.
The Nov. 24, 2009 car accident occurred when a pickup truck traveling on FM 2295 left the roadway and drove through a fence before going over a 40-foot embankment. Rebollar was identified as the driver of the vehicle transporting the 17 passengers. All the passengers were determined to be illegal aliens from Mexico and Guatemala. All 18 individuals were transported to area hospitals. The investigation led to identifying a scout vehicle, normally used to divert law enforcement during illegal smuggling operations, traveling with the pickup. Valdez and Martinez were identified as the occupants of the scout vehicle. Gomez-Rosales, who was injured in the accident, was later identified as the brush guide. All of the injured illegal aliens were later released from the hospital.
On May 5, ICE HSI and the Houston Police Department made additional arrests and executed several search warrants in Houston, including one at Servando Alvarado-Casas' residence. Federal agents seized $75,000 in U.S. currency and multiple firearms, including a stolen assault rifle found at his residence. "El Chino" was identified as the leader of the alien smuggling organization believed to be responsible for smuggling thousands of illegal aliens into the United States.
Of the nine arrested, Valdez, Martinez, Rebollar, Gomez-Rosales and Valdez-Fuentes have all pleaded guilty to conspiracy to transport illegal aliens; they will be sentenced later this year. A trial date has been set next month for the three remaining defendants charged in the conspiracy.
Alvarado-Casas has been held in custody without bond since his arrest. He will remain in custody to serve his sentence.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Lance Watt, Southern District of Texas, prosecuted this case.