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November 8, 2023McAllen, TX, United StatesHuman Smuggling/Trafficking

South Texas man convicted of taking migrants hostage, smuggling and weapons charges following HSI Rio Grande Valley, federal partner investigation

McALLEN, Texas — A federal jury convicted a South Texas man of multiple counts of hostage taking, smuggling and weapons charges following an investigation conducted by Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) with help from U.S Border Patrol, the U.S. Marshals Service, the Hidalgo County Sherriff’s Office and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

Heriberto Mendez-Lozano, 25, of McAllen, was convicted Nov. 8 on all counts following a three-day trial.

According to court documents, on Sept. 29, 2022, Mendez-Lozano and others were harboring five noncitizens. Instead of transporting them further into the United States, Mendez-Lozano and his co-conspirators held them against their will in Donna. There, Mendez-Lozano and others brandished firearms, held guns to the heads and ribs of hostages, threatened them, and forced them to call family members to demand money for their release.

The investigation led law enforcement officials to Donna, where they arrested Mendez-Lozano — who had a pending warrant for aggravated robbery — and co-conspirator Lorenzo Campbell. Authorities also rescued the hostages from the scene.

U.S. District Judge Micaela Alvarez presided over the trial and set sentencing for Jan. 17, 2024. At that time, Mendez-Lozano faces life in a federal prison. He has been and will remain in custody pending that hearing.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys for the Southern District of Texas Colton Turner and Theodore Parran prosecuted the case as part of the Human Smuggling Prevention Program. The program’s primary goal is to disrupt and dismantle human smuggling organizations on the southwest border through close cooperation with HSI and federal partners.

HSI San Antonio continues to address the serious public safety threat posed by human smuggling organizations and their reckless disregard for the health and safety of the people they exploit. To report suspicious smuggling activity, call 866-347-2423.

HSI is 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 more than 8,700 employees consists of more than 6,000 special agents assigned to 237 cities throughout the United States, and 93 overseas locations in 56 countries. HSI’s international presence represents DHS’ largest investigative law enforcement presence abroad and one of the largest international footprints in U.S. law enforcement.