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June 10, 2021Sells, AZ, United StatesHuman Smuggling/Trafficking

HSI Sells arrests 12, dismantles human smuggling network

SELLS, Ariz. — A 14-page indictment, unsealed Friday by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Arizona, charges 12 people with various human smuggling and money laundering charges resulting from a human smuggling investigation Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in Sells, Arizona.

On June 10, HSI special agents arrested Manuel de Jesus Ochoa-Vasquez, 38; Carlos Barron-Arredondo, 46; Fabiola Flores-Galves, 46; Isaac Gonzalez-Matul, 34; Oscar Roberto Mejia-De Leon, 25; Saul Martinez-Mercado, 35; Argeo Mendoza-Galvez, 48; Sandra Cuevas-Montesinos, 45; Rolando Cota-Leyva 39; David Lopez-Laurean, 30; Ronaldo Garde-Cienfuegos, 40; and Juan Manuel Osorio-Felix, 36. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Enforcement and Removal Operations, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and IRS-Criminal Investigation provided assistance with the arrests. Nine individuals remain at-large. In addition to the arrests, law enforcement seized over one million dollars in U.S. currency, six firearms and over 500 rounds of ammunition during the execution of the search warrants.

“On Thursday, 12 ranking members of a complex human smuggling organization were arrested for various charges, including: profiting from transporting and harboring people and money laundering. This smuggling organization is responsible for moving its illicit proceeds, stemming from operating a criminal enterprise. It’s clear these individuals were driven by greed. HSI Phoenix and our other Southwest border field offices continue to work with our law enforcement partners to combat this dangerous and often deadly activity. It is only through these coordinated efforts that we will be able to disrupt and ultimately dismantle human smuggling networks,” said Scott Brown, special agent in charge for HSI Phoenix.

According to the allegations in the indictment unsealed June 11 in Tucson federal court, as well as court filings, members of the human smuggling organization had been operating in various locations to include the west desert, Green Valley, Three Points and the Tohono O’odham Nation. All of them face conspiracy to transport and harbor undocumented individuals.

The indictment further charges five defendants with smuggling minors.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Arizona is prosecuting this case.

The charges contained in the indictment are merely accusations and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

HSI encourages the public to report any suspicious activity through its toll-free Tip Line at 1-866-DHS-2-ICE or by completing its online tip form. Both are staffed around the clock by investigators, and callers may remain anonymous. From outside the United States and Canada, callers should dial 802-872-6199. Hearing impaired users can call TTY 802-872-6196.

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.