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Human Smuggling/Trafficking

5 human smugglers plead guilty after 115 illegal aliens are found in a Houston stash house

HOUSTON — Five men from Mexico, who were arrested last month following the discovery of 115 illegal aliens in an area stash house, have pleaded guilty to human smuggling-related criminal charges.

These guilty pleas were announced by U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson, Southern District of Texas.

This investigation was conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), with the assistance of the Houston Police Department, and U.S. Border Patrol personnel assigned to HSI from U.S. Customs and Border Protection's South Texas Campaign.

The following five men were arrested March 19: Jose Aviles-Villa, 34, Jonathan Solorzano-Tavila, 28, Antonio Barruquet-Hildeberta, 40, Jose Cesmas-Borja, 22, and Eugenio Sesmas-Borja, 20. On that date, 115 illegal aliens were discovered in a stash house on Almeda School Road in Houston. A two-count criminal Information was filed April 8 charging the five men with conspiracy to harbor and transport illegal aliens, and using a firearm in relation to a crime of violence.

All five defendants pleaded guilty to both counts as charged April 17.

The convicted human smugglers admitted they obtained substantial profits from their conspiracy to bring the aliens into the U.S. illegally across the Southwest border. The illegal aliens were then held in stash houses while the smugglers arranged payment of remaining smuggling fees from their families.

While in the stash house, the conspirators seized the aliens' clothes, shoes, phones and other possessions. They also used guns, paddles, Tasers and other equipment to control and prevent the illegal aliens from escaping the stash house. They guarded the aliens with guns displayed in plain view and threatened to kill them by shooting them in the back of the head if they tried to escape.

In one specific instance, the conspirators contacted the mother of one of the stashed aliens and told her to pay an additional $13,000 for a woman and her two children. She was advised that if she did not pay, they would "make her family disappear and make her family pay."

Sentencing for the five men has been set for July 30. At that time, they each face up to 10 years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine for the conspiracy conviction. They also face a mandatory minimum of five years for using a firearm, which must be served consecutively to any other prison term imposed. All remain in custody pending that hearing.

Assistant U.S. Attorney (AUSA) Julie Searle and Special AUSA Rick Bennett, Southern District of Texas, are prosecuting this case.