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February 23, 2023San Antonio, TX, United StatesHuman Smuggling/Trafficking

Criminal organization leader sentenced to 25 years in federal prison once current 10-year sentence ends following HSI San Antonio, federal partner investigation

SAN ANTONIO — A Mexican citizen was sentenced Wednesday in federal court to serve 25 years in prison for his involvement in a criminal organization, following an investigation led by Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) with assistance from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and the San Antonio Police Department (SAPD).

According to court documents, Jose Miguel Sandoval-Pineda aka “Primo,” aka “Chavalon,” 22, of Michoacan, Mexico, was the leader, organizer and recruiter for a criminal organization heavily involved in human smuggling, firearms trafficking, and narcotics trafficking in the San Antonio area in 2019 and early 2020. Sandoval-Pineda and his organization are also tied to numerous shootings and arsons, including two homicides, mostly in the San Antonio area. Sandoval-Pineda was arrested on Jan. 17, 2020 in West Columbia, Texas and is currently serving a 10-year federal sentence for illegal possession of a machine gun. On Nov. 4, 2021, Sandoval-Pineda pleaded guilty to four additional counts: conspiracy to transport noncitizens; conspiracy to commit money laundering; conspiracy to commit arson; and use of fire or explosives to commit a federal felony.

On Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Xavier Rodriguez sentenced Sandoval-Pineda to 10 years for one count of conspiracy to transport noncitizens; 15 years for one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering; and 15 years for one count of conspiracy to commit arson, which will run concurrent with each other. Judge Rodriguez also sentenced Sandoval-Pineda to a consecutive 10 years in prison for one count of the use of fire or explosives to commit a federal felony. Sandoval-Pineda will serve his 25-year federal prison sentence at the conclusion of his current 10-year sentence.

“This defendant, who was already serving 10 years in federal prison, will now remain locked up for more than two long decades,” said U.S. Attorney Jaime Esparza of the Western District of Texas. “That is thanks to the dedication of our skilled prosecutors and our law enforcement partners at the local and federal levels. Without them, this criminal organization would likely still be out there terrorizing our communities and putting innocent lives at risk.”

“Yesterday’s sentence is an example of Homeland Security Investigation’s commitment to seeking justice on individuals responsible for violent crimes and wreaking havoc in our neighborhoods as this defendant did,” said Acting Special Agent in Charge Craig Larrabee of the HSI San Antonio Division. “The successful outcome of this case is a direct result of the steadfast efforts of HSI and our law enforcement partners in combating violent crime, human smuggling and firearms trafficking.”

“As this case demonstrates, ATF is uniquely positioned to investigate and bring to justice those that use gun violence and fire to hurt and intimidate others,” said Special Agent in Charge Fred J Milanowski of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) Houston Field Division. “We will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to investigate and hold accountable those who commit violent crimes in our community.”

Of the 11 defendants in this case, six have been sentenced. On Aug. 26, 2021, co-defendant Jose Victor Calleja-Velasquez aka “Kory,” 32, of Culiacan, Sinaloa, Mexico was sentenced to 240 months for one count of noncitizen in possession of a firearm and one count of possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine. A second co-defendant Jorge Rodriguez, 27, of Austin, Texas was sentenced on Nov. 30, 2021, to concurrent sentences of 27 months for one count of conspiracy to harbor noncitizens and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering.

On Oct. 19, 2022, a third co-defendant Samuel Lee Jones, 33, of San Antonio was sentenced to time already served with three years of supervised release for one count of illegal possession of a machine gun. A fourth co-defendant, Emmanuel Valdovinos aka “Manny,” 22, of San Antonio was sentenced on Dec. 5, 2022 to concurrent sentences of 78 months for one count of conspiracy to commit arson and one count of felon in possession of a firearm. On Dec. 14, 2022, Jose Efrain Ovalle-Alvarado, 24, of San Antonio was sentenced to 33 months in prison for one count of illegal possession of a machine gun.

Four defendants are in federal custody as they await their sentencing hearings: Eduardo Angel Viera aka “Lalo,” 26, of San Antonio; Javier Duenas aka “Puppet,” 22, of San Antonio; Jahannatan Pachecano Andrade, 23, of San Antonio; and Daniel Boanerges Orellana-Cano, 23, of La Ceiba, Atlantida, Honduras. The eleventh defendant, Jose Carlos Martinez, 22, of San Antonio is pending trial.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Bryan Nowinski, Wester District of Texas, prosecuted the case.

HSI San Antonio continues to address the serious public safety threat posed by human smuggling organizations and their reckless disregard for the health and safety of the people they exploit. To report suspicious smuggling activity, you are urged to call 1-866-348-2423.

HSI is a directorate of ICE and the principal investigative arm of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), responsible for investigating transnational crime and threats, specifically those criminal organizations that exploit the global infrastructure through which international trade, travel, and finance move. HSI’s workforce of over 10,400 employees consists of more than 7,100 special agents assigned to 220 cities throughout the United States, and 80 overseas locations in 53 countries. HSI’s international presence represents DHS’s largest investigative law enforcement presence abroad and one of the largest international footprints in U.S. law enforcement.

Updated: 02/23/2023