Another Convicted, Another Charged In Hostage Taking/Harboring Case
HOUSTON – Mexican national Marco Garcia-Perez, 38, has been convicted of conspiracy to transport illegal aliens, United States Attorney Kenneth Magidson announced today. Garcia-Perez was among seven charged in an ongoing conspiracy to harbor and hold smuggled aliens for ransom payments.
A third superseding indictment adding an eighth individual, Mexican National Emmanuel Rivera-Abarca, 19, was returned Feb. 28, 2013. He is expected to appear before a U.S. magistrate judge in the near future.
Charges in the case stem from an investigation that began in mid-August 2012, after family members and friends of two aliens who had been smuggled into the country contacted law enforcement to report receiving extortion calls demanding money for the aliens’ release. Family members wired money which was picked up at various locations in Harris County.
Agents later executed a search warrant at a residence on Amblewood Drive in Houston and encountered 26 illegal aliens, at least two of whom were juveniles, allegedly being held hostage inside the residence. According to the victim aliens, upon arrival in Houston they were forced to undress and informed they had been “sold” and would not be released until family members made payments to the men holding them hostage. While held hostage at the residence, the indictment indicated victims reported they were held in their underwear, in locked rooms with boarded up windows and in deplorable conditions. The victims also indicated they were guarded by men constantly armed with a handgun. Victims reported they were not allowed to leave the residence until payment was sent for their release. Some victims said they were threatened with harm or death if payment was not received.
That day, agents also encountered and arrested Mexican nationals Virgilio De La Torre-Santana, 27, Adauto Aguilar-Lara, 34, and Job Solis-Benito, 23. Subsequently, three more defendants were charged in the case - Samuel Castro-Flores, 41, from Mexico, Joshua Andrew Carbajal, 25, from Alice, and Garcia-Perez. The indictment remains under seal as to those charged but not as yet in custody.
De La Torre and Aguilar have entered guilty pleas in connection with their role in the ongoing conspiracy.
Garcia-Perez is set for sentencing on Sept. 20, 2013, at which time he faces up to 10 years imprisonment and a possible $250,000 fine. Sentencing for both De La Torre-Santana and Aguilar-Lara are also set for sentencing on Sept. 20, 2013. At that time, De La Torre faces up to life in prison, while Aguilar-Lara faces up to 10 years imprisonment. Both also face a possible $250,000 fine. Charges remain pending against all the remaining defendants. A final pretrial conference and jury selection is scheduled for June 10, 2013. They are presumed innocent unless convicted through due process of law.
The investigation leading to the charges in this case was conducted by Homeland Security Investigations in Houston, Washington D.C., and Virginia and police departments in Prince William County and Houston. Assistant United States Attorney Casey N. MacDonald is prosecuting the case.