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Human Smuggling/Trafficking

Smuggler who directed mistreatment of aliens at Los Angeles-area 'drop house' sentenced to 20 years

LOS ANGELES - An illegal alien from Guatemala was sentenced Monday to 240 months in federal prison for overseeing a human smuggling operation that used a "drop house" in Lancaster, Calif., where illegal aliens were rescued in 2009 after being held against their will, denied food and physically assaulted.

Pedro Marcos-Marcos, 29, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge George H. King. During the sentencing hearing, Judge King said that Marcos-Marcos had engaged in egregious acts against the aliens that his organization had smuggled into the U.S. The case resulted from an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

In October 2010, Marcos-Marcos pleaded guilty to two counts of hostage taking, two counts of harboring illegal aliens and one count of conspiracy to harbor illegal aliens. Marcos-Marcos has been in custody for nearly two years after being identified as the manager of the Lancaster drop house, where illegal aliens were held against their will until relatives paid smuggling fees - fees that were often increased once the aliens arrived in the United States.

When he pleaded guilty, Marcos-Marcos admitted he directed the brutal treatment of a Salvadoran national who was rescued from the drop house after suffering abuse that included being attacked with cattle prod or similar electrical device. That alien had been kept in a boarded-up room without clothing or blankets.

According to a police report discussed Monday in court, Marcos-Marcos managed another drop house in San Bernardino, where several illegal aliens were held against their will, including a woman who was raped when relatives did not pay the smuggling fee.

Marcos-Marcos was convicted in 2004 of harboring illegal aliens in a case brought by federal authorities in Arizona.