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Human Smuggling/Trafficking

Mexican national sentenced for transporting aliens into the United States

HARRISONBURG, Va - A Mexican national illegally present in the United States was sentenced today in U.S. District Court to three years in federal prison after officers discovered 10 illegal aliens in a van he was driving, following an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the Virginia State Police.

Oliver Sanchez Ortiz, 23, was sentenced today to 36 months of in prison after previously pleading guilty to one count of transporting illegal aliens within the United States. In court, it was revealed that Ortiz had been removed from the United States four times previously.

"The United States Attorney's Office continues to be committed to putting an end to the practice of profiting from the illegal transportation of aliens across our borders and throughout our country," United States Attorney Timothy J. Heaphy said today. "We will continue to vigorously enforce the federal laws which punish the many manifestations of the complex problem of trafficking and harboring illegal aliens."

"Human smuggling networks extend well beyond our borders into the interior of our country. These smuggling organizations not only put those they are smuggling at risk, but also put the American public at risk," said John P. Torres, Special Agent in Charge for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in Washington, D.C. "ICE works closely with our law enforcement partners to disrupt smuggling activities throughout the United States."

The case against Ortiz, and three other men charged in the incident, began on October 7, 2009, when the van Ortiz was traveling in was pulled over by a Virginia State Trooper on Interstate 81. Upon examination, officers discovered at least 10 illegal aliens inside the vehicle.

Agents in the Harrisonburg ICE office were brought into the investigation and determined that the aliens were smuggled across the desert from Mexico to Arizona and placed in a "drop house" where they were held until they paid a smuggling fee, between $1,000 and $1,400 per person. This fee was paid to have Ortiz transport the aliens to New York and Connecticut. Upon arrival at their destination, the aliens would have been unable to leave until they paid an additional $1,000 to $1,200 to Ortiz, or others.

Assistant United States Attorney Ryan L. Souders and Special Assistant United States Attorney Jorge Artieda are prosecuting the case for the United States.