News and Press Releases

Four Sentenced to Prison in Duval County Alien Smuggling Death Case

Dec. 15, 2011

McALLEN, Texas – Four people have been sentenced to federal prison for conspiracy to harbor undocumented aliens, United States Attorney Kenneth Magidson announced today along with Jerry Robinette, special agent in charge of Immigration and Customs Enforcement – Homeland Security Investigation (ICE-HSI).  

U.S. District Judge Micaela Alvarez sentenced Brenda Abi Bazaldua-Mariscal, 29, Canuto Rodriguez Jr., 24, Genaro Gomez, 24, and Maria Del Carmen Martinez-Fraga, 33, to 60, 120, 120 and 97 months imprisonment, respectfully. The sentences will each be followed by three years of supervised release. Co-defendant Rosa Isela Bazaldua, 36, is set for Jan. 10, 2012. With the exception of Martinez-Fraga, who is herself an undocumented alien from Mexico, all are U.S. citizens residing in Mission, Texas.

“Targeting smugglers who prey on human beings is a top priority of ICE,” said Robinette. “Human smugglers have a callous disregard for the value of life. We will continue to aggressively pursue these types of alien smuggling cases, in which lives are jeopardized for personal profit.”

The investigation began on June 28, 2011, when ICE-HSI received a call from Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers regarding three deceased undocumented aliens found in Duval County, Texas. At the location, HSI agents determined the three deceased aliens had been struck and killed by an oncoming vehicle at or around midnight. Near the scene of the incident, seven other undocumented aliens turned themselves in to agents and acknowledged the three deceased were part of their group - indicating one of them was their foot guide. A total of 15 undocumented aliens from Mexico, Honduras, El Salvador, the Dominican Republic and Nicaragua were ultimately apprehended, some under the age of 16. 

The aliens explained that they had been walking through the brush for about five days but had run out of food and water on the 4th day. Before his death, according to the aliens, the deceased guide spoke to someone via cellular telephone and was informed that they could not be picked up as planned due to law enforcement presence in the area. Sometime before midnight on the 28th, the guide informed the aliens that someone was going to drop off food and water. The guide and two of the aliens emerged from the brush and proceeded to the dark roadway and were later observed alongside the road before they were struck by a pick-up truck.

Further investigation led to the identification of Bazaldua, Bazaldua-Mariscal and Rodriguez as members of the alien smuggling organization who harbored the aliens in residences in Mission. As a result of the ICE-HSI investigation, agents subsequently identified Gomez and Martinez-Fraga as members of the alien smuggling organization who arranged the harboring and transportation of the aliens further North. Martinez-Fraga was also identified as the woman who took the three-year-old child of one of the aliens and was to arrange for her transportation North. The child was ultimately delivered to family members in Houston.    

On July 6, 2011, agents arrested Bazaldua, Bazaldua-Mariscal and Rodriguez, at which time agents discovered an additional 15 undocumented aliens hiding within the residence. Agents also discovered one Lorcin Model 19, 9mm handgun, seven rounds of Luger 9mm ammunition as well as seven cellular telephones within the residence. Several money wire transfer documents and a ledger which included the names of approximately 130 aliens that had been harbored at the residence. Subsequently, Martinez-Fraga and Gomez were also arrested. At time of Martinez-Fraga’s arrest, agents discovered one illegal alien from Honduras hidden in a shed in the back of the property in addition to two cellular phones and several money wire transfer documents.

All five defendants pleaded guilty to conspiracy to harbor aliens on Sept. 28, 2011. Fraga also pleaded to harboring the alien found at her home on Aug. 16, 2011. They have all been in custody since their arrest where they will remain pending transfer to a Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near future.       
The case was investigated by ICE-HSI and prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Patricia A. Rigney.

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