Sept. 9, 2009
ALIEN SMUGGLERS SENTENCED FOR BRINGING UNDOCUMENTED ALIENS THROUGH LAREDO PORT OF ENTRY USING FRAUDULENT DOCUMENTS
(LAREDO, Texas) – Cousins Saul Manzanares-Leija, 45, a Mexican citizen, and Edilberto Manzanares-Campos, 32, a U.S. citizen residing in Mexico, have been sentenced to three years in prison without parole for conspiring to smuggle undocumented aliens through the international port of entry in Laredo, Texas using fraudulent immigration travel documents, U.S. Attorney Tim Johnson announced today.
As part of an investigation on the trafficking of fraudulent immigration travel documents, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) special agents identified Manzanares-Leija and Manzanares-Campos as members of an alien smuggling organization based out of Monterrey, Nuevo Leon, Mexico, that routed aliens to the border city of Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas, Mexico, for their subsequent smuggling into the United States. CBP and ICE apprehended several aliens who attempted to make entry into the U.S. as tourists walking through the international bridge in Laredo using a combination of a fraudulent and legitimate documents. The documents were traced to the Manzanares organization.
CBP and ICE began monitoring the activities of the defendants and on March 7, 2009, observed Manzanares-Leija and Manzanares-Campos making entry into the United States escorting undocumented aliens through the pedestrian walkway of the Gateway to the Americas International Bridge No. 1 port of entry in Laredo. Both defendants were subsequently arrested.
The undocumented aliens escorted by the defendants described to immigration authorities how their smuggling journey took them to the Mexican city of Monterrey, approximately two hours south of Laredo where they were met by members of the Manzanares organization. The organization would match the aliens with a set of immigration documents and would groom the alien to resemble the person to whom the documents were issued. The aliens would also be photographed and the new photo used in a fraudulent Mexican passport and a combination of legitimate and fraudulent immigration travel documents supplied by the organization. The organization charged a smuggling fee of approximately $2,500, with part payment in Mexico and the remaining balance owed when the alien reached his or her final destination in the United States.
United States District Court Judge Micaela Alvarez handed down the sentences after finding the defendants were responsible smuggling more than 24 aliens into the U.S. from late 2007 to early 2009 when they were arrested in what the judge described as a sophisticated alien smuggling scheme. The defendants were also also ordered to serve a three-year-term of supervised release following their imprisonment. Manzanares-Campos was ordered to pay a $2000 fine. The judge also ordered Manzanares-Leija not to return to the country illegally should he be deported after his release from the Bureau of Prisons. Manzanares-Leija and Manzanares-Campos were convicted for their role in the conspiracy after pleading guilty and admitting their involvement on May 8, 2009.
Both defendants remain in custody until their assignment to a U.S. Bureau of Prison facility to begin service of their incarceration sentence.
The investigation leading to the charges in this case was conducted by CBP and ICE. Assistant United States Attorney Diana Song prosecuted the case.
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