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Human Smuggling/Trafficking

Stash house guard sentenced to nearly 4 years for harboring illegal aliens

HOUSTON - A previously convicted Mexican national illegally in the United States, who conspired to harbor other illegal aliens, and unlawfully possessed a firearm, was sentenced to nearly four years in prison on Thursday, announced U.S. Attorney José Angel Moreno. The investigation was conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

Elicio Moctezuma-Cisneros, 30, who was previously convicted of kidnapping and robbery, pleaded guilty on June 22, 2010 to conspiracy to harbor aliens, being an alien possessing a firearm, and illegally re-entering the U. S. after being deported. U. S. District Judge Nancy Atlas, accepted Moctezuma-Cisneros' guilty pleas and convicted him of the three federal offenses. On Feb. 10, Judge Atlas sentenced Moctezuma-Cisneros to 46 months in prison concurrently, without parole on each of the three convictions. Moctezuma-Cisneros is subject to deportation after he completes his prison sentence.

ICE HSI initiated the investigation in March 2010 after a shootout at a residence that was being used as a stash house to harbor illegal aliens located on the 200 block of Vashti Drive in Houston, Texas. Moctezuma-Cisneros and Juan Santiago Hernandez, 19, were guarding about 80 to 90 illegal aliens at the stash house until smuggling fees were paid by their relatives/friends to the alien smugglers. The illegal aliens would be released after the smuggling fees were paid to the smugglers.

On March 29, 2010, the Vashti Drive alien stash house was raided by Kenneth Barahona, 18, of Honduras and an unknown suspect dressed in law enforcement gear, which included "ICE" and "POLICE" shirts with the intention of stealing the "load" of smuggled aliens. Moctezuma-Cisneros and Kenneth Barahona exchanged gunfire and both suffered gunshot wounds and have since recovered.

Barahona was charged in a separate but related case and has since been convicted of conspiring to harbor illegal aliens and being an alien possessing a firearm. In November 2010, Barahona was sentenced to 100 months in federal prison by Judge Sim Lake. Moctezuma-Cisneros' co-defendant, Hernandez, was sentenced to 46 months in October 2010 by Judge Atlas for conspiring with Moctezuma-Cisneros to harbor illegal aliens. Both are presently in federal custody serving their sentences.

Moctezuma-Cisneros has been in custody since his March 2010 arrest. He will remain in federal custody pending his transfer to a U. S. Bureau of Prisons facility in the near future to begin serving his sentence.

Assistant U. S. Attorney Suzanne Elmilady, Southern District of Texas, prosecuted this case.