Men Plead Guilty to Holding Illegal Aliens Hostage at Las Vegas Motel
Las Vegas, Nev. – Three men pleaded guilty this week to holding seven illegal aliens in a motel room in Las Vegas against their will and for ransom, announced Greg Brower, United States Attorney for the District of Nevada.
Felipe de Jesus Flores-Villela, 33, entered his guilty plea on Wednesday, July 8, 2009, and Victor Manual Morales-Velazquez, 22, and Angel Rigoberto Uribe-Ibarra, 48, entered guilty pleas on Thursday, July 9, 2009, all to a single-count Criminal Information charging them with Conspiracy to Harbor Illegal Aliens for Private Financial Gain. A fourth man charged in the case, Orlando Jimenez, 21, is scheduled to enter a guilty plea to the same charge on Tuesday, July 14, 2009, at 1:30 p.m, and a fifth man, Gerardo Perez-Villegas, 21, is awaiting trial. All of the defendants, except Jimenez, who is a U.S. citizen, are Mexican nationals who entered the United States unlawfully.
According to the court records, on April 23, 2009, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Agents received information that illegal aliens from Mexico were being held against their will in Las Vegas. Family members of the victims had been contacted by the captors and advised that they had to pay $2,800 in order to secure the release of each victim. ICE Agents, working with local and federal law enforcement authorities, determined through telephone records that the individuals were being held in a room at the Aruba Motel in Las Vegas. On April 23, 2009, law enforcement officers knocked and entered the motel room and encountered 12 individuals, five of whom were the defendants. Agents took all 12 individuals into custody, and determined that 11 were illegal aliens and seven were victims who had been smuggled into the U.S. by the defendants in exchange for a fee. The defendants required the victims to contact family members or to provide the defendants with contact information for family members. The defendants also subjected the victims to physical assault and intimidation in the presence of other victims, displayed what appeared to be firearms in order to maintain physical control of the victims and to coerce them to persuade family members to pay ransom money, and made threats of death and other physical violence against the victims and members of the victims' family. Agents recovered from the motel room, three pellet firing replica pistols and an automatic opening bladed knife.
Sentencing hearings for the defendants are set for October 6, 2009. The maximum penalty is not more than 10 years in prison and a fine of not more than $250,000. The defendants are all in federal custody.
The case is being investigated by ICE, DEA, and the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, and prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Kimberly M. Frayn, Christina M. Brown, and Bradley Giles.