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Human Smuggling/Trafficking

2 South Texas brothers receive 30- and 40-year prison sentences for hostage-taking

One brother sexually assaulted females who had been smuggled into the United States

MCALLEN, Texas — Two south Texas brothers were sentenced Wednesday to 30 and 40 years in federal prison for conspiracy to commit hostage taking, announced U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson, Southern District of Texas.

This case was investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection's (CBP) Border Patrol, Edinburg (Texas) Police Department, and the Hidalgo County's Sheriff's Office.

Rafael Cruz, 25, and Roberto Cruz, 27, both of Mission, Texas, appeared before U.S. District Judge Micaela Alvarez who handed down the brothers' sentence. Rafael Cruz was sentenced to 480 months. The sentence was enhanced as the court took into consideration that he had sexually assaulted smuggled females on a number of occasions. Judge Alvarez then sentenced Roberto Cruz to 360 months in prison for his role in the hostage-taking conspiracy. After they serve their sentences, they will each have to serve a five-year-term of supervised release. The Cruz brothers pleaded guilty to the charges Feb. 4.

Also sentenced May 21 was the sister of the Cruz brothers, Jisel Emery Cruz, 30, of Penitas, Texas. She was ordered to serve 46 months for harboring aliens.

"The sentencing of the Cruz family members sends a clear message that individuals who engage in criminal activity with disregard for human life will be located, arrested, convicted and sentenced for their actions," said Special Agent in Charge Janice Ayala, HSI San Antonio.

According to court documents, on Sept. 9, 2013, law enforcement received a 911 call from an illegal alien claiming he and a group of other illegal aliens were being held against their will at a stash house in Edinburg. Upon their rescue, these individuals told law enforcement they were kidnapped at gunpoint from a stash house by the Cruz brothers and a third individual, who remains a fugitive, and taken to the stash house in Edinburg. There, they were made to call their families and request money to be paid for their release. They were also threatened with death if the money was not paid.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Kimberly Ann Leo and Kristen Rees, Southern District of Texas, prosecuted this case.