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August 25, 2014Victoria, TX, United StatesHuman Smuggling/Trafficking

Former fugitive charged with 22 counts alleging murder, hostage taking

VICTORIA, Texas — An undocumented alien, illegally residing in Houston, will make his initial appearance in Corpus Christi federal court Wednesday on charges contained in a 22-count superseding indictment, announced U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson, Southern District of Texas.

The investigation was conducted by the following agencies: U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI); U.S. Border Patrol agents with the South Texas Campaign and South Texas Border Intelligence Center; Houston Police Department; Harris County Sheriff's Department; and the U.S. Marshals Service.

Noe Aranda-Soto, aka Diablo or Chulo or Wache, 34, was indicted in Victoria last week. Aranda-Soto was a fugitive until his arrest by law enforcement in 2012. The indictment alleges brandishing firearms and using a firearm in relation to hostage taking resulting in death, which is murder. The indictment further alleges hostage taking, harboring undocumented aliens, transporting undocumented aliens, related conspiracy charges, and illegal re-entry into the United States after being previously deported.

Aranda-Soto will appear before U.S. Magistrate Judge B. Janice Ellington Wednesday morning in Corpus Christi.

"Human smugglers are often dangerous people with little regard for human life," said Brian M. Moskowitz, special agent in charge of HSI Houston. "They see people as profitable - but expendable - commodities and use violence as a tool of the trade."

Aranda-Soto was originally charged in 2010 with eight counts related to an alien transporting conspiracy following a rollover accident Aug. 1, 2010, that resulted in death. According to court records in that case, he was the alleged leader of an alien smuggling/hostage taking organization and in charge of a crew that transported aliens from areas near the Falfurrias and Sarita checkpoints to local stash houses in Houston and to points north.

On Aug. 1, 2010, Aranda-Soto's brother was driving a vehicle loaded with illegal aliens when it rolled over near Victoria. One person died as a result of the accident, while another had been left behind in the brush and died of exposure and dehydration. A third victim was in a coma for nearly a year and now suffers from permanent injuries.

Aranda-Soto was later identified as the alleged leader in the conspiracy. He was stopped by law enforcement authorities a few days later, but he fled and escaped.

While still a fugitive on the 2010 charges, Aranda-Soto returned to Houston in 2012, allegedly calling himself "El Diablo" and holding aliens hostage in Houston area stash houses, according to court records. Law enforcement discovered one of his alleged stash houses in October 2010, at which time authorities rescued a group of aliens allegedly being held hostage and arrested several of Aranda-Soto's alleged employees.

Aranda-Soto then planned to leave Houston with two female employees. However, according to previous court proceedings, an argument ensued and Aranda-Soto shot both the driver and the other female passenger. Aranda-Soto allegedly shot the passenger multiple times and pushed her out of the moving vehicle. She was subsequently run over by a tractor-trailer, resulting in traumatic decapitation and dismemberment. The driver was also struck multiple times but managed to escape the vehicle and survived.

Law enforcement arrested Aranda-Soto a few weeks later at yet another stash house, which was full of illegal aliens allegedly being held hostage.

With the exception of Aranda-Soto, all of those charged in relation to the 2010 and 2012 criminal activity have all been convicted.

If convicted, Aranda-Soto faces varying prison terms up to a possible death sentence.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Patti H. Booth and Casey N. MacDonald, Southern District of Texas, are prosecuting the case.

An indictment is a formal accusation of criminal conduct, not evidence. A defendant is presumed innocent unless convicted through due process of law.