Leader Sentenced In Alien Smuggling Scheme To Steal Fees From Aliens And Their Families
McALLEN, Texas – Pedro Rayon-Perez, 28, has been ordered to prison following his conviction for harboring undocumented aliens, announced United States Attorney Kenneth Magidson. The Mexican national previously pleaded guilty as did three others – Mexican national Osiel Castillo, 46, and Roxanna Leal, 26, and Luis Aguilar-Hernandez, 42.
Today, U.S. District Judge Randy Crane, who accepted all the guilty pleas, handed Rayon-Perez a sentence of 96 months in federal prison. As an illegal alien, Rayon-Perez was further sentenced to 21 months for having been found in the United States following previous deportations. Those sentences will be served concurrently for a total sentence of 96 months in federal prison. On June 13, 2013, Judge Crane sentenced Leal to a term of 15 months. Castillo was ordered to serve a 10-month term in addition to a 36-month state prison sentence at his hearing on June 17, 2013. Aguilar-Hernandez is set for sentencing next month. Rayon-Perez, Aguilar-Hernandez and Castillo are expected to face deportation proceedings following their release from prison, while Leal will serve two years of supervised release following completion of her prison term.
The investigation revealed Rayon-Perez concocted a scheme to capture illegal aliens attempting to enter the U.S. and extort money from their families for safe passage further north. Once they had exhausted the extortion payments from families, Rayon-Perez and his co-conspirators planned to abandon the aliens in public places south of the checkpoint. Having victimized one group of smuggled aliens, the group seized five additional aliens on Nov. 12, 2011, as they crossed the river, including a pregnant woman and her husband. The 21-year-old woman was 8.5 months pregnant and had not seen her mother since her mother fled to the U.S. 20 years prior to financially support her family. The couple had intended to surprise her mother upon their arrival in the country.
Instead, Rayon-Perez and his co-conspirators exploited the young couple and three others by using their vulnerability to extort family members and intending to abandon them in the Rio Grande Valley once their scheme was complete. Rayon-Perez successfully defrauded the pregnant woman’s mother by stealing $4,800 – nearly all her savings. Rayon-Perez then double-crossed his co-conspirators by taking the money and abandoning the aliens in the custody of Luis Aguilar-Hernandez and Leal. When Aguilar-Hernandez demanded additional payment from the mother, she sought law enforcement assistance. The San Juan Police Department, assisted by the U.S. Marshals Service, conducted a tactical operation on Nov. 17, 2011, that freed the aliens from the stash house where Aguilar-Hernandez and Leal were harboring them.
In rendering his sentence today, Judge Crane emphasized the unusual nature of the scheme and the unique vulnerability of its victims. Judge Crane lauded law enforcement for its investigation of such aggravating circumstances that placed lives at risk and deprived immigrant families of their limited resources. The court found the sentence appropriate as this type of crime is beyond the “heartland” of typical smuggling cases and represents a unique threat to the community.
Rayon-Perez, Aguilar-Hernandez and Castillo have been and will remain in custody pending transfer to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near future. Previously released on bond, Leal was permitted to remain on bond and voluntarily surrender to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility.
The case was investigated by Homeland Security Investigations with assistance from the San Juan Police Department. Assistant United States Attorneys Grady J. Leupold and Leo J. Leo III are prosecuting the case.