MIAMI - On Jan. 28, 2020, a Cuban national was sentenced to 57 months in prison for his participation in a for-profit alien smuggling conspiracy that transported Cuban nationals to Mexico and then into the United States.
The sentencing came as a result of an investigation conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Miami office and the Federal Bureau of Investigations. U.S. District Kathleen M. Williams prosecuted the case against Tomas Vale Valdivia, 45.
According to the court record, including the agreed upon factual proffer and evidence presented during the sentencing hearing, beginning at least as early as October 2013, and continuing through at least July 2018, a group of individuals including Vale Valdivia and additional unnamed associates were members of an alien smuggling conspiracy operating in Miami, Florida, Mexico, the Dominican Republic, and Haiti.
A leader of the scheme, Vale Valdivia also admitted to organizing the alien smuggling conspiracy, which included five or more participants. Through this conspiracy, more than 100 migrants were smuggled from Cuba to Mexico and then ultimately to the United States. Generally, the migrants were charged approximately $10,000. Vale Valdivia admitted to knowing that the conspiracy’s activities were unlawful and further admitted their methods, at times, intentionally or recklessly creating a substantial risk of death or serious bodily injury to another person using vessels that were overloaded or used during foul weather so as to risk capsizing. In addition to smuggling migrants, Vale Valdivia smuggled baseball players from Cuba to the United States. Vale Valdivia also admitted to being involved in a conspiracy that stole engines in the United States and then shipped the engines through a freight forwarding company in Miami to Mexico to be used to further the alien smuggling conspiracy.
This prosecution is the result of the ongoing efforts of the Operation Sisyphus Task Force, a multi-agency partnership to combat Caribbean based organized crime that includes the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida, FBI Miami and HSI Miami. In recent years, the Operation Sisyphus Task Force has targeted organizations utilizing coercion and extortion to compel migrants and their families to make payments for the release of loved ones.
If you believe you are a victim of migrant coercion or extortion or know someone who is, you are encouraged to call 1-866-347-2423 or visit ice.gov/tipline. The toll-free phone number is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Help is available in English, Spanish, and additional languages.