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May 28, 2010

(713) 567-9388


(BROWNSVILLE, Texas) – Roberto Villalon Jr., 45, charged in 2004 and arrested after six years on the run, has pleaded guilty to alien smuggling and failing to appear in court as ordered, United States Attorney José Angel Moreno announced today. 

Villalon, of Mission, Texas, entered a plea of guilty to one count of alien smuggling and one count of failing to appear before United States District Court Judge Hilda G. Tagle at a hearing held this morning. Villalon faces a maximum sentence of five years imprisonment, a $250,000 fine and up to three years of supervised release both cases at his sentencing set for August 23, 2010. 

The alien smuggling charges arise from  a Feb. 20, 2004, event when a Chinese undocumented alien approached the guards at one of the gates of the Yturria Ranch near Raymondville, Texas, and used one of their cell phones to try to place a call.  After Border Patrol (BP) agents responded to the scene, Villalon, who had been transporting the group in his vehicle until they got out, called back on the guard’s cell phone and spoke to a BP agent pretending to be the guard. Villalon asked for directions to pick up the alien and it was agreed to deliver the alien at a location Villalon identified. When BP agents approached Villalon at the pick up location, he initially denied involvement, but later admitted to being paid to transport one alien. A short time later, seven more aliens - two Mexicans and five Chinese - who were part of the same group transported by Villalon, were encountered by BP agents. Villalon’s vehicle was found to contain luggage belonging to the aliens. 

As a result of further investigation by BP agents, Villalon and his wife, Maria Guadalupe Leon, were charged with alien smuggling and later released on bond. Both were scheduled  to appear in federal court on March 17, 2004; however, neither Villalon nor his wife appeared in court as ordered. A warrant issued for the arrest of both and charges of failure to appear in court as ordered were filed. On April 27, 2010, Villalon attempted to enter the United States through a south Texas port of entry. Customs and Border Protection officers identified him as being wanted  and detained him. Deputy U.S. Marshals arrested Villalon on the outstanding warrants and has been in federal custody without bond since then where he will remain pending sentencing. Maria Guadalupe Leon, who is presumed innocent, remains a fugitive and a warrant remains outstanding for her arrest.  Anyone having information regarding the whereabouts of Leon are asked to contact the U.S. Marshals Service in Brownsville at (956) 548-2519 or in McAllen at (956) 618-8025 .

The investigation leading to the alien smuggling charges against Villalon was conducted by BP agents. The failure to appear charge is the result of the investigative efforts of the U.S. Marshals Service. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Joseph Leonard.


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