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Human Smuggling/Trafficking
09/25/2012

Mexican national sentenced to 36 months in prison for harboring illegal aliens

HOUSTON — An illegal alien from Mexico was sentenced Tuesday to 36 months in prison for harboring illegal aliens, announced U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson, Southern District of Texas. The investigation was conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the Houston Police Department (HPD).

Carlos Martinez-Aguilar, 44, was sentenced Sept. 25 to three years in prison. Events leading to his arrest began Aug. 19, 2011, when the Houston Emergency Center received a 911 call at its operations facility from a subject who spoke only Spanish. The victim advised he was being held against his will at a house in Houston by alien smugglers who had been hired to smuggle him to an unspecified location in the United States. He claimed another person, later identified as Cesar Avila, 38, an illegal alien from Honduras, was armed with a handgun and had threatened to kill them. The victim indicated that he and others feared for their lives.

The 911 call was traced to a residence located on the 100 block of Jamaica Street in Houston by HPD officers. The building had no windows and the French doors on the north side of the residence had its glass panes covered with aluminum foil. Once inside, several people, later identified as hostages, began covertly pointing to Avila as the hostage taker and smuggler. Officers also discovered a semi-automatic handgun and a ledger detailing payments by the smuggling organization under the mattress where Avila was sitting.

Several of the aliens held hostage identified Martinez-Aguilar as having come into the building where they were being held, drinking beer with Avila prior to law enforcement arriving, and inquiring about the status of payments of smuggling fees. The victims indicated Martinez-Aguilar was not involved in abusing or threatening them and had provided them food and blankets. Officers discovered Martinez-Aguilar had been living in the larger house in front of the building where the aliens were housed.

Another victim stated that prior to the arrival of the police, he and the others were being held against their will and threatened with death if they did not pay or arrange to have paid another $5,000 to the smugglers.

Martinez-Aguilar pleaded guilty Jan. 31. Avila was convicted by a Houston jury June 6 and is scheduled to be sentenced Oct. 9, at which time he faces up to life in prison.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Julie Searle and Doug Davis, Southern District of Texas, prosecuted the case.