Office of the United States Attorney, John S. Leonardo
District of Arizona
July 26, 2012
FEDERAL JURY CONVICTS SOUTHERN ARIZONA MEN WHO USED SHUTTLE BUSINESSES TO SMUGGLE ILLEGAL ALIENS
TUCSON, Ariz. - On July 23, 2012, a federal jury in Tucson found Eusebio Arce-Padilla, 57, of Rio Rico, Ariz., and Miguel Torres-Organiz, 62, of Tucson, Ariz., guilty of conspiracy to bring, transport, and harbor illegal aliens. The case was tried before U.S. District Judge Cindy K. Jorgenson from July 10-23, 2012. The court issued warrants for the arrest of Arce-Padilla and Torres-Organiz after they both absconded during trial. Both men are scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Jorgenson on Oct. 1, 2012. The jury failed to reach a verdict on co-defendant Miguel Toralba-Mendia, 50, of Tucson, Ariz. The court declared a mistrial in his case and has scheduled a status conference on July 27th to set a date for his retrial.
“This investigation and prosecution brought down a sophisticated human smuggling operation that was responsible for bringing thousands of illegal aliens into the country and funneling them through Tucson and Phoenix to destinations throughout the United States,” said U.S. Attorney John S. Leonardo. “I commend our federal, state, and local law enforcement partners, as well as our prosecution team, for their tremendous efforts in securing these convictions.”
“These convictions represent a significant victory in law enforcement’s efforts to dismantle illicit transnational human smuggling networks and the infrastructures that support them,” said Matt Allen, Special Agent in Charge of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in Arizona. “HSI’s Operation In Plain Sight investigation was successful in large part because of the tireless dedication of our special agents as well as extensive cooperation from our federal, state and local partners and Mexican federal police. Our collective efforts have resulted in the conviction or guilty pleas of more than 70 defendants, including the head of the alien smuggling organization itself.”
Evidence presented at trial showed that Arce-Padilla, also known as “Chevo,” was the head of a Nogales, Arizona-based alien smuggling organization that moved thousands of illegal aliens into the United States over more than five years. The organization guided the illegal aliens around the U.S. Border Patrol checkpoint on Interstate 19 south of Green Valley, Ariz. The organization then transported them in private vehicles to various shuttle businesses in Tucson, where they boarded marked shuttle vans to be taken to parking lots in Phoenix. In Phoenix, the illegal aliens were transferred into private vehicles and taken to drop houses where money was collected from sponsors before the illegal aliens would be transported to their ultimate destinations in the United States. The organization collected fees in the average range of $1,700 to $2,000 for the trip from Nogales, Sonora, to Phoenix, Ariz.
This was the second trial related to Operation In Plain Sight, a major investigation conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI). The investigation resulted in indictments against 74 individuals in April 2010. In the first trial, which took place from Jan. 24 through Feb. 1, 2012, a jury returned guilty verdicts against Ruperto Guillen-Cervantes, 55, and Betty Castillo, 39, both of Tucson. On May 16, 2012, Guillen-Cervantes and Castillo were both sentenced to 37 months in federal prison. All but one of the remaining defendants in the case entered guilty pleas. Charges against one defendant were dismissed on government motion
A conviction for conspiracy to bring, transport, and harbor illegal aliens carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison, a $250,000 fine, or both. In determining an actual sentence, Judge Jorgenson will consult the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines, which provide appropriate sentencing ranges. The judge, however, is not bound by those guidelines in determining a sentence.
The bi-national investigation in this case was conducted by U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), with support from numerous federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies, and included cooperation from Mexico’s Secretaria Securidad Publica (SSP). The prosecution was handled by Joseph E. Koehler, Jeffrey D. Martino, Brian G. Sardelli, Munish Sharda, and Lisa Settel, Assistant U.S. Attorneys, District of Arizona.
Photographs of Arce-Padilla and Torres-Organiz, both of whom absconded during trial, are attached to this release. Anyone who may have information regarding their whereabouts is encouraged to contact the TIPS Hotline at 1-866-347-2423.
CASE NUMBERS: CR-10-754-TUC-CKJ & CR-10-753-TUC-CKJ
RELEASE NUMBER: 2012-178(Arce-Padilla_etal)
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For more infor
PHOTOS: Arce-Padilla_etal (PDF)
mation on the U.S. Attorney’s Office, District of Arizona, visit http://www.justice.gov/usao/az