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Human Smuggling/Trafficking
02/13/2020

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Alien smugglers sentenced to prison for seizing an illegal alien in distress

TUCSON, Ariz. – A Sells, Ariz. man and woman were sentenced Monday by U.S. District Judge Rosemary Marquez to 80 months and 60 months respectively in prison following a human smuggling investigation led by special agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigation (HSI) assisted by the Tohono O’odham Police Department.

Johnson Ortiz, 23, and Regina Ramon, 29, previously pleaded guilty on Sept. 4, 2019, to their involvement in harboring illegal aliens for profit, with Ortiz also pleading to a statutory endangerment enhancement.

“This is yet another example of the dangers of illegally crossing the border. Human smugglers pray on people for the sole purpose of profit and in this case, they callously disregarded the victim’s plea for help and continued to abuse him for additional financial gain,” said Scott Brown, special agent in charge for the HSI office in Phoenix. “HSI is at the forefront of investigating these human smuggling organizations that attempt to plague the southwest border. Our message is clear, human smugglers will not find refuge in Arizona.”

On March 18, 2019, the victim, a distressed illegal alien who was walking along the road on the Tohono O’odham Indian Reservation, in Sells, was contacted by persons driving a red SUV. They asked what he was doing on the road, and the victim said, “Help me, please. Hospital.” Using a translator app, the occupants of the red SUV agreed to take the victim to the hospital, but instead took him to Ortiz’s and Ramon’s house. Despite repeated requests for medical attention, Ortiz and Ramon kept the victim at their house and, via a translator app, asked him who in the United States would pay for his further transportation into the United States. While at the house, Ortiz robbed the victim of his wallet, cell phone, and identification at knifepoint. On March 20, 2019, the victim escaped out of a window and was found by a patrolling Tohono O’odham Police officer, who took the victim to the hospital and called HSI. After meeting with the victim at the hospital, Special Agents obtained a federal search warrant for the house where the victim had been held and discovered six additional illegal aliens, one an unaccompanied minor, the victim’s belongings, and the knife used during the robbery while searching the house. Each of the illegal aliens found in the house stated that they had made arrangements to be smuggled further into the United States and were to pay upon their arrival at their final destinations.

“We commend the alert and responsive work of the Tohono O’odham Police officer and his collaboration with HSI in the investigation of the case,” said United States Attorney Michael Bailey. “This case highlights the danger human smugglers present to vulnerable people.”

The prosecution was handled by Serra M. Tsethlikai and Alicia Renee Robertson, Assistant U.S. Attorneys, District of Arizona, Tucson.

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Last Reviewed/Updated: 02/14/2020