Department of Justice seal U.S. Department of Justice

Debra Wong Yang
United States Attorney
Central District of California


United States Courthouse
312 North Spring Street
Los Angeles, California 90012
Release No. 06-069

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PRESS RELEASE

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 2, 2006
For Information, Contact Public Affairs
Thom Mrozek (213) 894-6947

11 CHARGED IN SOPHISTICATED ALIEN-SMUGGLING RING THAT BROUGHT IN HUMAN CARGO FROM MEXICO AND HELPED ALIENS TRAVEL THROUGHOUT THE U.S.

First Case Brought by U.S. Attorney's New Prosecutorial Unit, the Domestic Security and Immigration Crimes Section


Los Angeles, CA - Federal authorities have charged 11 defendants linked to a large-scale alien smuggling ring that brought hundreds of illegal aliens including infant children into the United States from Mexico and helped the aliens travel to cities across the nation.

Following a year-long wiretap investigation conducted by special agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, authorities fanned out across Southern California and Eastern Arizona early this morning to execute a series of search warrants and to arrest five of the defendants who were charged late Thursday by the United States Attorney's Office in Los Angeles.

A 94-page affidavit in support of the criminal complaint outlines the smuggling operation, which began in a Sonoran hotel, involved drop houses near Yuma, Arizona and brought illegal aliens to Ventura County.

The complaint names 11 defendants:

- Juan Ramirez-Ramirez (J. Ramirez), also known as El Diablo, a 37-year-old Oxnard man who allegedly ran the smuggling ring;
- Cesar Huerta-Alcazar, 25, of Riverside, who allegedly ran the Yuma drop houses;
- Maria Margarita Renovato-Rangel (M.M. Renovato), 24, of Oxnard;
- Maria DeJesus Renovato-Rangel (M.J. Renovato), 29,of Oxnard;
- Norma Higinia De Sanchez, 41, of Yuma;
- A John Doe believed to use the name "Cuache";
- Dario Rodriguez-Vargas (D. Rodriguez), 25, of Riverside;
- Joel Rodriguez-Vargas (J. Rodriguez), 27, of Riverside;
- Martin Garcia-Lujan, 41, of Yuma;
- Miguel Gonzalez-Hernandez, 27, of Los Angeles; and
- Manuel Leon-Morales, 62, of Los Angeles.

Out of the 11 defendants, five were arrested early this morning in Southern California. Those five defendants are expected to make court appearances this afternoon in Los Angeles.

According to the court documents unsealed today, El Diablo is the leader of the alien-smuggling organization, and he directs M. J. Renovato and her sister, M. M. Renovato in the day-to-day smuggling activities. El Diablo and the Renovato sisters allegedly directed their customers the "sponsors" who are relatives of aliens who want to enter the United States illegally to send their relatives or friends to the Hotel Internacional in San Luis Rio Colorado, Mexico. After arriving at the hotel, the aliens were led across the international border by smugglers commonly called "coyotes," who led them across the desert into the United States.

The affidavit states that "Cuache" coordinates the retrieval of the smuggled aliens on the United States side of the border in San Luis, Arizona and arranges their transport to the vicinity of Yuma, Arizona. Once in Yuma, the aliens were brought to drop houses maintained by Huerta and Garcia. The aliens were kept in the drop houses until they could be transported to Oxnard by drivers such as D. Rodriguez, J. Rodriguez and Gonzalez-Hernandez. Once in Ventura County, El Diablo and the Renovato sisters allegedly housed the aliens and worked to collect smuggling fees from the aliens' sponsors their family members and friends. For aliens that wanted to travel to the Midwest and the Eastern United States, Leon-Morales coordinated transportation for the smuggled aliens and the collection of the smuggling fees.

The smuggling of children was allegedly overseen by De Sanchez, who brought the children some as young as eight months old through the port of entry in San Luis, Arizona using false identification documents. De Sanchez also allegedly took money from El Diablo to pay off co-conspirators near the border and at the Hotel Internacional.

According to the criminal complaint, El Diablo charged $1,600 to $2,000 for each illegal alien to be smuggled to the Los Angeles area from Mexico. The prices increased to as much as $2,800 for aliens to be smuggled to other parts of the United States. El Diablo oversaw the payment of individuals who assisted the smuggling ring, including people at the Mexican hotel, coyotes, drop house operators and those who drove the aliens to Southern California. Based on intercepted phone calls, investigators believe that the ring has smuggled more than 100 illegal aliens in just the past six weeks. Investigators believe that the El Diablo smuggling operation has been in operation for more than one year.

"With these arrests, we have dismantled a criminal organization responsible for smuggling a significant number of aliens into southwestern United States," said David Wales, resident agent in charge of the ICE office of investigations in Ventura County. "As this case shows, ICE is not only targeting the people affiliated with these criminal organizations, but we're also going after the infrastructure that supports this ruthless and highly lucrative enterprise."

A criminal complaint filed late last night and unsealed today charges the 11 defendants with bringing illegal aliens into the United States, transporting illegal aliens, harboring illegal aliens, and conspiracy. Those four felony counts each carry a maximum statutory penalty of 10 years in federal prison.

A criminal complaint contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.

The case against the smuggling operation is the first prosecution by a new prosecutorial unit created this week by United States Attorney Debra Wong Yang. "The Domestic Security and Immigration Crimes Section was created to bring cutting-edge and proactive prosecutions against those who challenge our national security," said United States Attorney Yang. "The prosecutors in this unit will bring cases against organized, large-scale alien smuggling rings. They will also prosecute complex, immigration-related fraud, such as asylum fraud, marriage fraud, and the widespread manufacturing and dissemination of fraudulent documents."

This case is the product of an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

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Release No. 06-069

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