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December 12, 2019Houston, TX, United StatesHuman Smuggling/Trafficking

2 human smugglers convicted of operating Houston-area stash houses

HOUSTON — Two men were convicted Thursday for operating a large-scale human smuggling scheme by operating stash houses in Houston using boarded-up trailers. A third man involved in the operation was convicted earlier this month.

This investigation was conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in Houston, Texas, in conjunction with HSI Guatemala and the government of Guatemala.

Albino Vargas-Hernandez, a 48-year-old illegal alien from Mexico, and Rene Camacho, a 47-year-old U.S. citizen residing in Houston, both pleaded guilty Dec. 12 to conspiracy to transport and harbor illegal aliens. A third man who is also illegally present in the U.S., 21-year-old Mexican national Hiram Lamarca-Gonzalez, entered his guilty plea Dec. 4.

This investigation revealed that from around July 9 through Aug. 22, 2018, multiple suspected aliens had arrived and departed from trailers in Houston, which were locked and had boards on the windows. On several occasions, Vargas-Hernandez left his residence, picked up illegal aliens from the stash house and delivered them to others.

Law enforcement obtained search warrants on the Vargas residence as well as the stash houses. During that time, authorities found Vargas-Hernandez and Camacho inside one of the trailers along with 12 smuggled aliens. These aliens identified Vargas-Hernandez and Camacho as leaders of this smuggling organization.  Both men were in charge of documenting alien information in ledgers and collecting payments for the those smuggled into the United States.  Law enforcement also recovered multiple firearms, “pollo” lists (alien smuggling ledgers keeping track of alien and payment information), money service wire receipts and about $224,000 in cash.

Authorities also arrested Lamarca-Gonzalez for guarding the smuggled aliens at the stash house. 

Sentencing for all three men is set for Feb. 13. At that time, they each face up to 10 years in federal prison and a possible $250,000 maximum fine.

Camacho was permitted to remain on bond; Vargas-Hernandez and Lamarca-Gonzalez remain in federal custody pending the sentencing hearing.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard Bennett, Southern District of Texas, prosecuted this case.

Updated: 12/13/2019