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Human Smuggling/Trafficking

Mexican receives life sentence in smuggling-related Phoenix hostage case

PHOENIX - A Mexican man has been sentenced to life in prison plus seven years after being found guilty by a federal jury of multiple charges for his role in a violent smuggling-related hostage incident investigated by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

Bernardo Mancinas-Flores, 29 of Escuinapa, Sinaloa, Mexico, was sentenced here yesterday by U.S. District Court Judge Roslyn Silver. In imposing a life sentence, Judge Silver noted that Macinas-Flores' crimes were committed with malice against people who were vulnerable due to their illegal status in the United States.

Mancinas-Flores, along with at least two others, was part of a violent group of alien smugglers. In October 2005, they were found holding 15 illegal aliens, including a 3-year-old girl, in a house in Phoenix. While at the house, the illegal aliens were held at gunpoint and threatened with death. In addition, two adult female victims were sexually assaulted at gunpoint by Mancinas-Flores. Three victims of the hostage-taking ordeal gave emotional testimony at trial.

"Targeting smugglers who prey on human beings is a top priority of ICE," said Alonzo Peña, special agent in charge of the ICE Office of Investigations in Arizona. "Alien smugglers have a callous disregard for the value of human life. We will continue to aggressively pursue these types of human smuggling cases where people's lives are jeopardized for personal profit."

U.S. Attorney Diane J. Humetewa stated that "the court's sentence accurately encompasses the scope and violence that characterizes human smuggling in Arizona. ICE and the Phoenix Police Department are to be congratulated for their success in bringing violent criminals, such as the ones in this case, to justice."

In addition to the life sentence, Mancinas-Flores received concurrent 10-year terms for two charges of harboring aliens and a seven-year consecutive term for the use of a firearm during the hostage taking. Mancinas-Flores' co-defendant, Andres Vasquez-Vera, who was not involved in the sexual assaults, pleaded guilty to possession or use of a firearm during a crime of violence and was previously sentenced to 84 months in federal prison.

Sentencing for Neil is scheduled for May 14, 2008, at the federal courthouse in Boise. He faces a maximum penalty of ten years in prison and a fine of $250,000.