ALEXANDRIA, Va. – A Honduran national pleaded guilty today to illegal reentry after removal and conspiring with others to transport illegal aliens to various locations in the United States.
G. Zachary Terwilliger, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, and Patrick J. Lechleitner, Special Agent in Charge of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Washington, D.C., and Colonel Edwin C. Roessler Jr., Fairfax County Chief of Police, made the announcement after Senior U.S. District Judge Claude M. Hilton accepted the plea.
According to court documents, Danny Josue Zelaya-Ortiz, aka “Jose Castro”, 29, was part of a conspiracy to charge illegal aliens in the United States a fee for transporting them from Texas to other states across the country. In April 2018, Zelaya-Ortiz picked up at least six alien passengers, all of whom had been smuggled into the United States from the Mexico border. Zelaya was driving the passengers towards Maryland and the New York area when his vehicle was stopped in Virginia by Fairfax County Police on April 25, 2018. He was cited for an improper vehicle tag display and driving without an operator’s license. Homeland Security Investigations special agents responded to the scene after it was determined Zelaya-Ortiz and the passengers had no lawful status in the United States. Zelaya-Ortiz admitted he knew the passengers were illegal aliens and that he received payments for his role in the scheme. At the time of the crime, Zelaya-Ortiz had been in the country illegally after having been twice removed by immigration officials.
“Mr. Zelaya-Ortiz was deported twice before his latest arrest,” said G. Zachary Terwilliger, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia. “He was removed in December 2012, and then he illegally returned. He was removed a second time in June 2014, and he illegally returned again. Just two months ago, Fairfax County Police officers found him smuggling six other illegal aliens who he was transporting to various points across the country in exchange for money. After Mr. Zelaya-Ortiz completes his sentence in this case, he will be deported, at taxpayer expense, for a third time. The Department of Justice is committed to prioritizing criminal immigration enforcement. This is an issue of public safety. People cannot be permitted to continuously flout the law.”
Zelaya-Ortiz pleaded guilty to conspiracy to transport illegal aliens and illegal reentry after deportation. He faces a maximum penalty of 12 years in prison when sentenced on September 14. Actual sentences for federal crimes are typically less than the maximum penalties. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after taking into account the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
A copy of this press release is located on the website of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia. Related court documents and information is located on the website of the District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia or on PACER by searching for Case No. 1:18-cr-235.