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Human Smuggling/Trafficking

3 sentenced in Tucson hostage investigation

TUCSON, Ariz. - Three Mexican citizens were sentenced on Wednesday to federal prison after they were convicted on hostage-taking charges, following an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

Faustino Chiquete-Reyes, 31, and Miguel Leyva-Rocha, 41, were both sentenced to 11 years in prison. A third defendant, Angel Reyna-Vargas, 40, was sentenced to eight years. The sentences were imposed by visiting U.S. District Judge Mark W. Bennett. All three defendants are Mexican citizens unlawfully present in the United States who will be deported immediately after they complete their prison sentences. The men were also ordered to pay restitution for ransom fees exacted from the aliens who were being held.

In November 2009, an illegal alien being held hostage by the defendants was allowed to make a call for ransom money to a relative in California. The relative subsequently contacted authorities and ICE HSI agents were able to pinpoint the location of the cellular call to a home in Tucson. Within 24 hours, federal agents and members of the Pima County Sheriff's SWAT team surrounded the home. They subsequently took six suspects into custody and rescued 14 hostages.

All of the illegal aliens held hostage were eventually deported; and five of the suspects were indicted by a federal grand jury on hostage-taking and weapons charges. One suspect is a minor and was charged and convicted separately as a juvenile. In addition, Nestor Chiquete-Reyes, 38, brother of Faustino, was convicted and sentenced to more than seven years in prison earlier this year for his role in this conspiracy. Both the juvenile and Nestor will also be deported after they complete their prison sentences.