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Human Smuggling/Trafficking

Alien smugglers indicted for hostage taking

MIAMI - A U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) investigation resulted in two alien smugglers indicted for hostage taking. On June 25, 2008, a federal Grand Jury sitting in Miami indicted two Miami Dade residents Niovel Chirino-Alvarez, 33, and Lazaro Martinez-Padron, 21, with charges related to hostage taking and alien smuggling for the purpose of commercial advantage and private financial gain. If convicted, Chirino-Alverez and Martinez-Padron face up to life imprisonment.

According to the allegations in the Indictment and documents filed with the Court, Chrino-Alvarez and Martinez-Padron conspired with others to encourage and induce aliens to come to, enter, and reside in the United States without the alien having received prior authorization to come to, enter, and reside in the United States and with holding the aliens hostage. More specifically, Chirino-Alvarez and Martinez-Padron encouraged and induced eight Cuban nationals to enter the United States, charging each adult an estimated $10,000. Chirino-Alvarez and Martinez-Padron then held the Cuban nationals against their will until their ransoms were paid.

"Targeting smugglers who prey on human beings is a top priority for ICE," said Anthony Mangione, special agent in charge of the ICE Office of Investigations in Miami. "Alien smugglers have a callous disregard for the value of human life and whose only motivation is greed as demonstrated by these two individuals. Their only goal is to profit at the expense of others. We will continue to aggressively investigate those involved in this illicit and dangerous activity."

The investigation began in mid June of this year when a relative of one of the Cuban nationals contacted law enforcement officials and told them that a family member had been brought to the United States from Cuba and would be turned over only if the family paid $10,000.

Law enforcement officials began consensually recording phone calls with the defendants. In one of these calls Chirino-Alvarez explained that he had personally brought the Cuban nationals from Cuba. Chirino-Alvarez explained that once the $10,000 was paid, he would release the Cuban national in question. ICE agents arranged for a meeting with Chirino-Alvarez to make the $10,000 exchange in order to free the Cuban national.

On the evening of June 17, 2008, Chirino-Alvarez and Martinez-Padron arrived at a parking lot and released the Cuban national in exchange for the $10,000. Immediately after the exchange, Chirino-Alvarez and Martinez-Padron were arrested. Officers found seven Cuban nationals seated in Chirino-Alvarez and Martinez-Padron's vehicle.

Individuals who seek to take advantage of the desperate plight of family members of our community must answer for their criminal conduct," stated United States Attorney R. Alexander Acosta. "We will continue our efforts to work with law enforcement to ensure that this type of conduct does not occur."

Mr. Acosta commended the investigative efforts of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Adam L. Schwartz.