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Human Smuggling/Trafficking

Texas firefighter and others arrested for transporting illegal aliens and money laundering

VICTORIA, Texas - Four people, including a Portland, Texas, firefighter, have been indicted and charged with alien smuggling and money laundering. The charges were announced Monday by U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Texas José Angel Moreno and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Director John Morton.

The sealed indictment charging firefighter Peter Jones, 26, Lorena Martinez, 36, Beatrice Rodriguez, 39, and Josesantos Zacarias, 42, was returned Nov. 18 and unsealed Nov. 23. Jones, Martinez and Rodriguez are also charged with structuring transactions to evade reporting requirements.

"Human smuggling is a ruthless crime that undermines our borders reaching every state in the interior leaving a trail of exploited people perpetrated by those motivated by profit and greed," said Morton. "ICE is committed to using every available resource to identify, investigate and apprehend those involved in human smuggling."

Special agents with the ICE Office of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), along with the Corpus Christi Police Department (CCPD) Organized Crime Unit and the Portland Police Department (PPD), arrested Jones, a U.S. citizen; Martinez, a legal permanent resident alien; Zacarias, a Mexican national; and Rodriguez, an Army National Guard reservist, in Portland and Corpus Christi on Nov. 23.

HSI agents also conducted a search at the residence of Jones and Martinez which resulted in the seizure of $21,600 in U.S. currency and several financial documents. Ana Martinez-Limas was arrested on the charge of falsely claiming U.S. citizenship.

The indictment alleges the four defendants conspired together to transport undocumented aliens by motor vehicle beginning in 1993 until the return of the indictment and laundering proceeds derived from the alleged illegal activity by depositing then structuring the withdrawal of the proceeds in amounts of less than $10,000 in 2006 to purchase real property in the Corpus Christi and Portland area. The indictment also seeks to forfeit any interest each of the four defendants may have in two real properties - 4654 Dodd in Corpus Christi and 1101 Polaris in Portland - alleging the properties constitute were obtained with proceeds from and involved in the alleged conspiracy to transport of undocumented aliens.

Jones, Martinez and Rodriguez appeared for a detention hearing on Nov. 29 in U.S. District Court in Corpus Christi before U.S. Magistrate Judge Brian Owsley. Jones and Rodriguez have been ordered released upon posting $1,000 of a $30,000 bond. Martinez has been ordered detained without bond pending trial. Zacarias remains in custody pending a detention hearing.

Each of the four counts alleged in the indictment - conspiracy to transport undocumented aliens, conspiracy to launder monetary instruments and the two counts of money laundering - carry a maximum of 10 years imprisonment, a $250,000 fine or both, upon conviction.

The arrests and seizures are the result of an ongoing investigation led by ICE HSI in joint cooperation with the U.S. Attorney's Office, CCPD Organized Crime Unit, Portland Police Department, Portland Fire Department and the U.S. Army Criminal Investigations. Assistant U.S. Attorney Patti Hubert Booth, Southern District of Texas, is prosecuting the case.