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Human Smuggling/Trafficking

Leader of Phoenix-based human smuggling ring sentenced in federal court

PHOENIX — The leader of a Phoenix-based human smuggling ring that transported hundreds of aliens each month across the Arizona-Mexico border was sentenced April 7 to 30 months in federal prison, following an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

Javier Rito-Martinez, 37, of Mexico, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Susan R. Bolton to 30 months in federal prison followed by three years of supervised release. Rito-Martinez pleaded guilty Jan. 15 to felony conspiracy to transport and harbor illegal aliens.

According to court documents, between October 2011 and February 2013, Rito-Martinez served as the leader of an alien smuggling ring that utilized a network of foot guides, drivers and drop houses to smuggle individuals across the Arizona-Mexico border, through the Tohono O'odham Nation to the Phoenix metro area. From Phoenix, the smuggled aliens were transported to destinations throughout the U.S.

HSI special agents say they discovered that Rito-Martinez's operation smuggled hundreds of illegal aliens each month into the United States, charging each individual between $2,500 and $3,000 in smuggling fees. Authorities encountered alien smuggling loads transported by Rito-Martinez's smuggling ring as far away as New Mexico, Texas, Missouri, Tennessee and Missouri.