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Sept. 24, 2010

LAREDO ARRESTS DISMANTLE ALLEGED ALIEN SMUGGLING RING

(LAREDO, Texas) – A sealed six-count indictment charging a total of seven persons for conspiring to harbor smuggled Mexican, Chinese and other foreign nationals in stash houses in and around Laredo, Texas, and to transporting the aliens between Laredo, Houston and other U.S. locations was partially unsealed today following the arrest of four of the defendants charged, United States Attorney José Angel Moreno and Immigration and Customs Enforcement - Homeland Security Investigations (ICE-HSI) Special-Agent-in-Charge Jerry Robinette announced today.

“HSI human smuggling investigations and its partnership with Customs and Border Protection and the U.S. Attorney's Office has led to the increase in human smuggling arrests and prosecutions in south Texas,” said Robinette, ICE special agent in charge of the Office of HSI in San Antonio. “Over the course of this investigation, agents working very closely with Laredo South Border Patrol agents conducted a thorough and intensive investigation leading to today’s charges and the dismantling of one of the allegedly most active and persistent, large-scale human smuggling organizations in Laredo.”
 
The indictment, returned under seal by a Houston grand jury on Sept. 15, 2010, was partially unsealed today in open court following the appearance of Alejandra Uresti-Granger, aka “La Guera,” 38, and her daughter Cindy Granger, 19, both alleged principal coordinators of the smuggling scheme, as well as Jose Luis Martinez, 28, and Jose Alvarado, 23, alleged operators of stash houses and transporters of illegal aliens. All four defendants were arrested in Laredo on Thursday, Sept. 23, 2010, by ICE-HSI agents. The indictment remains sealed as to three others for whom a warrant remains outstanding.

All four defendants appeared before United States Magistrate Judge J. Scott Hacker today and have been ordered to remain in federal custody pending a hearing on the motion of the United States to detain all six defendants without bond pending trial of the case. A detention hearing has been set by the court for Sept. 29, 2010. The case will be prosecuted in Houston.

According to allegations in the indictment, beginning in February 2009, the defendants entered into an agreement to transport, conceal, harbor and shield from detection by law enforcement more than 100 undocumented aliens - Mexican, Chinese as well as other foreign nationals - smuggled into the United States. The defendants would transport the aliens to various staging areas or “stash houses” in the Laredo area, where the aliens remained until smuggling fees had been paid and transportation arranged through the Laredo Border Patrol checkpoint north to other stash houses in San Antonio, Texas, or Houston and elsewhere.

The investigation leading to the charges is part of an on-going ICE-HSI Laredo office investigation to identify the coordinators of illegal smuggling organizations as well as the those engaged in harboring and transporting the aliens.

Uresti-Granger, Granger and Martinez are charged with conspiracy to transport and harbor aliens for financial gain. Jose and Manuel Alvarado are charged with harboring and transporting aliens for financial gain, while Flores-Flores is charged with illegal re-entry after deportation. A conviction for any of these offenses carries a maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment and a fine not to exceed $250,000. 

Assistant U.S. Attorney James McAlister is prosecuting the case.

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

 

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