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August 6, 2009


(LAREDO, Texas) – Jose Luis Villarreal-Martinez, a 46-year-old previously convicted aggravated felon, has been sentenced to a total of 97 months for his illegal reentry into the U.S. following deportation, United States Attorney Tim Johnson announced today. Villarreal-Martinez had claimed he was threatened by the Los Zetas, a violent enforcement faction of the Gulf Cartel, and coerced to enter the United States at gunpoint. A federal jury found Villarreal-Martinez guilty of the offense on May 20, 2009.

During trial, the United States presented evidence proving that on March 1, 2009, United States Border Patrol agents encountered Villarreal-Martinez in the Chacon Creek area of Laredo, Texas. A record check revealed he had an extensive criminal record, including robbery and aggravated assault, and was previously removed to Mexico in 2001 and, most recently, in December 2008. Villarreal-Martinez attempted to convince the jury that his entry into the country was involuntary because Los Zetas had kidnapped him in Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas, Mexico, demanded a ransom of $400 via Western Union and later compelled him at gunpoint to cross into the U.S. by wading the Rio Grande River. The government offered contrary evidence that the defendant had not immediately reported having being kidnapped and forced to cross, but only reported this allegations to Border Patrol after learning the penalties he was facing and had given different accounts of his alleged kidnapping. Phone toll records of his family’s telephone number also contradicted the timeline of the alleged ransom calls. The jury returned a verdict of guilty during the second and last day of the trial.

At today’s sentencing, Villarreal-Martinez attempted to re-urge his defense of coercion as a mitigating factor. U.S. District Judge Micaela Alvarez denied the request telling Villarreal-Martinez that neither the jury nor she believed his tale. Judge Alvarez sentenced Villarreal-Martinez to 85 months for instant offense to be followed by an additional 12-month prison term for violating his term of supervised release attached to a prior conviction for illegal reentry in the Eastern District of Texas for a total of 97 months without parole. When last deported in December 2008, Villarreal-Martinez had just finished serving a 77-month prison sentence handed down for his prior illegal entry conviction. Following his release from the Bureau of Prisons, Villarreal-Martinez will be removed from the country and begin a three-year-term of supervised release.

The investigation leading to the charges in this case was conducted by U.S. Border Patrol and prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Diana Song.



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