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Human Smuggling/Trafficking

3 south Texas alien smugglers sentenced to years in federal prison

Their prison sentences were enhanced for threatening and beating their smuggling clients

MCALLEN, Texas — Three south Texas alien smugglers were sentenced Wednesday to years in federal prison following their convictions for smuggling illegal aliens into the United States.

These sentences were announced by U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson, Southern District of Texas. This case was investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), along with U.S. Customs and Border Protection's (CBP) Border Patrol, and Edinburg (Texas) Police Department.

Ivan Cabrera, 23, and Michael Ayala, 27, both of Edinburg, and Maria Isabel Rivera-Castillo, 52, of Mexico, were sentenced by U.S. District Judge Randy Crane. Judge Crane sentenced Cabrera to 63 months' imprisonment; Rivera and Ayala received respective sentences of 52 and 33 months. The court enhanced these sentences since the smuggled aliens were beaten and threatened with physical and sexual violence while they were in the defendants' custody. The defendants held the illegal aliens for days and, in some cases, weeks to extort monies from their families in exchange for their release. All three pleaded guilty on varying dates in November 2013.

Cabrera, Ayala and Rivera-Castillo have been in custody since their arrest on Sept. 27, 2013. After they serve their prison sentences, Cabrera and Ayala will also serve three years of supervised release. Rivera will face deportation proceedings after she's released from prison.

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