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Oct. 21, 2009

LAST OF SIX CHARGED IN HOSTAGE TAKING CASE ARRESTED

(HOUSTON) - The sixth person indicted last month by a federal grand jury on charges of hostage taking and harboring aliens has been arrested, United States Attorney Tim Johnson announced today. Edgar Ivan Guerrero, 20, was taken into custody on Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2009, by agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).     

Previously, on Sept. 14, 2009, a federal grand jury indicted Guerrero and five other men on six counts of hostage taking and harboring aliens. Along with Guerrero, Heriberto Perez-Pinon, 24, Israel Perez-Pinon, 25, Alejandro Pantoja-Rosales, 28, Eduardo Lopez-Vargas, 32, and Juan Romero-Trejo, 35, are accused of conspiring to harbor aliens in a Houston stash house and apartment, where the aliens were kept until relatives or friends paid a fee for the aliens’ release. As part of the conspiracy, the six men are also accused of transporting loads of smuggled aliens from South Texas to Houston.

According to allegations in a criminal complaint originally filed on Aug. 28, 2009, on Aug. 21, Heriberto Perez-Pinon, Pantoja-Rosales, Lopez-Vargas, and Guerrero targeted a load of 13 aliens being transported to Houston by another smuggler. In the effort to hijack the pickup truck in which the 13 aliens were being transported, one of the defendants fired multiple gunshots at the truck. The defendants, allegedly led by Pantoja-Rosales, then dragged the driver from the pickup and pistol-whipped him until he was severely injured. Pantoja-Rosales drove off with the load of 13 aliens with the three other defendants following in separate vehicles. The smuggled aliens were taken to a Houston stash house on the 5400 block of Heron Drive, where Israel Perez-Pinon and Guerrero are alleged to have placed telephone calls to the aliens’ relatives demanding an increased fee for their release.

The investigation leading to the arrest and filing of criminal charges began when two of the aliens escaped from the smugglers and contacted the Houston Police Department (HPD).  Pantoja-Rosales and Lopez-Vargas were arrested by HPD officers. ICE was notified and the investigation continued. The following day, agents found four more illegal aliens and five firearms at the Heron street residence. Israel Perez-Pinon, an illegal alien at the residence, was arrested there. Guerrero, who was determined to be a U.S. citizen, and not subject to administrative detention during the pendency of the investigation was not arrested at that time. Later the same day, HPD officers and ICE agents located an apartment on the 4000 block of Hollister where more illegal aliens were found including two women. Romero-Trejo and later Perez-Pinon were arrested at the apartment. 

With the exception of Guerrero, all of the defendants are themselves undocumented aliens. Guerrero is expected to make his initial appearance later today before U.S. Magistrate Judge Calvin Botley.  

If convicted on any one of the three hostage taking counts, each defendant faces a maximum penalty of life sentence. The three alien harboring counts carry a maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment. 

The investigation leading to the charges was conducted by ICE with the assistance of HPD. The case will be prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys David Searle and Ed Gallagher.

An Indictment is a formal accusation of criminal conduct, not evidence.
The defendant is presumed innocent unless and until convicted through due process of law.

 

 

 

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