SAN ANTONIO – A total of 28 individuals were arrested Tuesday, with 12 being federally charged with alien transportation and harboring, announced U.S. Attorney Robert Pitman, Western District of Texas and U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magdison, Southern District of Texas. This case is being investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), with the assistance of U.S. Customs and Border Protection's (CBP) Border Patrol.
In San Antonio, a nine-count federal grand jury indictment returned Sept.12 and unsealed Tuesday, charges the 12 in custody and eight other defendants with conspiring between September 2011 and August 2012 to transport and harbor undocumented aliens for financial gain. Other charges in the indictment include aiding and abetting the harboring of aliens; aiding or assisting an aggravated felon to enter the United States; transporting aliens for financial gain and placing in jeopardy the life of persons; and transporting aliens for financial gain.
"Today's criminal charges are the result of the tireless efforts of HSI special agents, CBP Border Patrol partners and the U.S. Attorney's Office to investigate and arrest those involved in the illicit and dangerous activity of human smuggling," said Jerry Robinette, special agent in charge of HSI San Antonio. "The results today will have an impact on an organization that has endangered its human cargo and has shown very little restraint as to what extremes they will go to make a profit. HSI strongly discourages and warns people from becoming a victim and attempting to illegally enter the United States. Tragically, many have lost their lives while attempting this illegal and treacherous trip."
"Cooperation and coordination among all law enforcement agencies is key to disrupting transnational criminal organizations and keeping our border communities safe. Today is a perfect example of what unity of effort and a whole-of-government approach means in combatting transnational criminal organizations and ultimately keeping the American public safe. Customs and Border Protection in South Texas continues to strengthen partnerships, conduct joint operations and share information with federal, state and local law enforcement agencies," stated CBP South Texas Commander Robert L. Harris.
According to court documents, authorities allege that the defendants, with reckless disregard for human life, used stolen vehicles to transport more than 100 undocumented aliens from Laredo to staging areas in San Antonio.
The following individuals were arrested in San Antonio Tuesday: April Gaitan, 26; Armando Gaitan, 29; Sonia Campos-Delgado, 34; and Florencio Vaquez, 25. The following two defendants were arrested in Del Valle, Texas, outside of Austin: Carlos Rocha Leos, 35, and Sergio Israel Leos, 19.
Arrested in Laredo were Ivan Martinez and Elvia Vasquez-Morales, 38. The following four additional defendants were already in custody on other charges: Everlin Moreno-Mejia, 22; Luis Aguirre-Guerrero, 25; and Juan Manuel Vasquez-Laris, 26.
Eight defendants in this indictment remain fugitives, including ringleader Fernando Martinez-Magana, 40, aka "Dieciseis" aka "Zeta 16" aka "Don Fernando," of Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas, Mexico.
A separate, but related, indictment was also returned in the Laredo Division of the Southern District of Texas Sept. 11, which alleges that between June 30 and Dec. 31, 2011, several individuals conspired to transport and move illegal aliens who had come to, entered and remained in the United States. The sealed indictment was partially unsealed today following the arrests of 16 charged in the case. The indictment remains sealed for those not yet in custody.
Upon conviction of the conspiracy charge, the defendants face up to 20 years imprisonment. The remaining charges call for either 20-year or 10-year maximum terms of imprisonment upon conviction.
An indictment is merely a charge and should not be considered as evidence of guilt. The defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.