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Husband and Wife Smugglers and Numerous Co-Conspirators Convicted of Alien Smuggling and Money Laundering Sentenced to Prison

U.S. Attorney’s Office December 16, 2009
  • Southern District of Texas (713) 567-9000

McALLEN, TX—A husband, his common-law wife, and their co-conspirators will be serving prison terms for their involvement in smuggling illegal aliens and laundering smuggling fees, United States Attorney Tim Johnson announced today.

Nazareth Rodriguez-Alamo, 28, a Mexican citizen illegally in the United States headed this smuggling operation, while his common-law wife, Leticia Garcia, 32, a permanent legal resident from Mexico, received the smuggling fees through Western Union and MoneyGram for the organization. Both were sentenced today by United States Judge Randy Crane to 51 months and 24 months, in federal prison, respectively. Rodriguez pleaded guilty to and was convicted of conspiracy to transport illegal aliens in September 2009, while Garcia pleaded guilty to and was convicted of conspiracy to launder the smuggling fees in October 2009.

In July 2007, the FBI and the U.S. Border Patrol began an investigation into an alien smuggling organization transporting illegal aliens from the Rio Grande Valley to Houston. Agents learned the organization would hold the illegal aliens at various stash houses operated by Rodriguez-Alamo until they were ready to be transported by vehicle to an area south of the border patrol checkpoint where they were dropped off to walk around the checkpoint. The organization relied upon individuals to scout for law enforcement agents in order to make their venture successful. Specifically, the driver of the vehicle carrying the illegal aliens would stop south of the Falfurrias, Texas border patrol checkpoint, leave the vehicle on the side of the road and guide the aliens on foot around the checkpoint. A scout vehicle carrying a passenger would drop off the passenger who would drive the vehicle north of the checkpoint where he would leave it for the guide and the aliens while he was picked up by another scout vehicle. The organization usually used at least four scout vehicles—two vehicles ahead of the load vehicle and two behind the load vehicle. While they kept in constant communication via cell phones, they would notify each other of law enforcement presence.

Rodriguez-Alamo, Alfredo Ortiz, Higinio Ortiz, and Margarito Chavez transported several thousand aliens from 2005 through the date of the indictment. Rodriguez-Alamo and Garcia laundered approx. $1.7 million during this time.

Chavez, Danny Ray Vargas, Alfredo Ortiz, Rene Vargas, Francisco Emeterio Garcia, Higinio Ortiz, Miguel Angel Granado, Julian Trevino, and Jaime Lee Trevino worked as scouts for the alien smuggling organization. All nine of these defendants were identified as a result of the investigation, pleaded guilty between May and August 2009, have been convicted for their role in the smuggling organization of conspiracy to transport illegal aliens. Today, Judge Crane sentenced Vargas, 28, of Edinburg, Texas, to 16 months in federal prison. Alfredo Ortiz, 29, of Alton, Texas, was sentenced to 70 months in prison. Rene Vargas, 35, Julian Trevino, 22, and Jaime Lee Trevino, 33, all of Mission, Texas, were sentenced to 18 months, 12 months and one day, and three years probation, respectively. Francisco Emeterio Garcia, 29, of Alton, Texas, will serve three years on probation, while Higinio Ortiz, 28, also of Alton, will serve 57 months in prison. Miguel Angel Granado, 23, of Brownsville, Texas, was sentenced to 14 months’ imprisonment. The sentencing for Chavez, 30, of Mission, was continued with no new date given at this time.

Jose Enrique Schiffer-Gonzalez, 27, and Emilio Estrada, Emilio Estrada, 37, both Mexican nationals, worked as load drivers and guides that walked the illegal aliens around the border patrol checkpoint. Both men, who pleaded guilty earlier this year to their role in the conspiracy, were also sentenced today. Schiffer-Gonzlez was sentenced to 20 months, while Estrada received 18 months in federal prison.

All 12 defendants were also ordered to serve terms of supervised release following their prison terms. Each defendant faces a return to prison to serve additional prison terms if they violate the conditions imposed by the court. The non-US citizen defendants also face possible deportation upon completing their prison terms.

The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Anibal J. Alaniz.

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