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Human Smuggling/Trafficking

Mexican smuggling leader sentenced in scheme to extort illegal aliens

MCALLEN, Texas — A Mexican man, who led and later abandoned a human smuggling ring, was sentenced in federal court Tuesday to 96 months in prison.

This sentence resulted from an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), with the assistance of the San Juan (Texas) Police Department.

Pedro Rayon-Perez, 28, of Mexico, was sentenced July 1 to 96 months in federal prison for harboring illegal aliens. Rayon-Perez previously pleaded guilty to the charge, as did three others. As an illegal alien, Rayon-Perez was further sentenced to 21 months for re-entering the United States after having been previously deported. His sentences will run concurrently.

Other members of the smuggling ring who previously pleaded guilty include:

  • Roxanna Leal, 26, sentenced to 15 months;
  • Osiel Castillo, 46, also of Mexico, sentenced to 10 months, in addition to a 36-month state prison sentence; and
  • Luis Aguilar-Hernandez, 42, also of Mexico, is scheduled for sentencing in July.

Rayon-Perez, Aguilar-Hernandez and Castillo are all in the United States illegally and are expected to face deportation proceedings following their release from prison. Leal will serve two years of supervised release following completion of her prison term.

The investigation revealed that Rayon-Perez concocted a scheme to capture illegal aliens attempting to enter the United States and then extort money from their families to ensure safe passage further north. Once they had exhausted the extortion payments from families, Rayon-Perez and his co-conspirators intended to abandon the aliens in public places south of a border checkpoint.

Having victimized one set of smuggled aliens, the group seized five additional aliens who were crossing the Rio Grande River Nov. 12, 2011. This second group included a pregnant woman and her husband. The 21-year-old woman was nearly nine months pregnant; she had not seen her mother since the mother had left Mexico for the United States 20 years previously. The couple had intended to surprise her mother upon their arrival in the country.

Instead, Rayon-Perez and his co-conspirators exploited the young couple and three others by using their vulnerability to extort family members, later intending to abandon them in the Rio Grande Valley once their scheme was complete.

Rayon-Perez successfully defrauded the pregnant woman’s mother of $4,800 and then double-crossed his co-conspirators by taking the money and abandoning the aliens in the custody of Aguilar-Hernandez and Leal. When Aguilar-Hernandez demanded additional payment from the mother, she sought law enforcement assistance. The San Juan Police Department, assisted by the U.S. Marshals Service, conducted an operation Nov. 17, 2011, that freed the aliens from a stash house where Aguilar-Hernandez and Leal were harboring them.

Rayon-Perez, Aguilar-Hernandez and Castillo have been and will remain in custody pending transfer to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near future. Previously released on bond, Leal was permitted to remain on bond and voluntarily surrender to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility.