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Human Smuggling/Trafficking

Alien smuggler sentenced to 25 years for sexual assault during hostage taking

PHOENIX - A Mexican national who helped hold more than 20 smuggled aliens hostage in a Phoenix residence where they were beaten and sexually assaulted has been sentenced to 25 years in prison.

Evaristo Ortiz-Jimenez, 37, of Nayarit, Mexico, was sentenced yesterday by U.S. District Judge David G. Campbell. Ortiz-Jimenez pleaded guilty to using and carrying a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence, hostage taking. The charges resulted from an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the Phoenix Police Department.

Ortiz-Jimenez was part of a violent group of alien smugglers who held at least 23 illegal aliens hostage in May 2008 at a house in Phoenix. Ortiz-Jimenez led the day-to-day activities at the house. While being held in the home at gunpoint, the victims were subjected to beatings and death threats. Ortiz-Jimenez was also accused of sexually assaulting a 16-year-old girl who was held hostage even after her family paid for her release. When sentencing the defendant, Judge Campbell called Ortiz-Jimenez's conduct "extraordinarily violent and cruel" and stated "I can think of nothing worse - short of killing someone."

Ortiz-Jimenez is the first of four defendants to be sentenced in this case. Of the remaining defendants, Carlos Alvarez-Espinoza was convicted at trial and faces life in prison followed by a mandatory minimum sentence of 107 years. His sentencing date is Oct. 19. Jesus Corrales-Fernandez and Freddy Ovando-Ocana pleaded guilty and are set for sentencing on Oct. 19 and Nov. 16, respectively. The fifth defendant, David Alejo-Ortiz, is currently in Maricopa County custody pending state charges for human smuggling, misconduct involving weapons and kidnapping. His trial date on those charges is Sept. 30.

The prosecution was handled by Lisa Jennis Settel and Josh Parecki, Assistant U.S. Attorneys, District of Arizona.