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July 1, 2011

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Three Plead Guilty to Harboring Illegal Aliens and Use of a Firearm

HOUSTON – Juan Corvera, 32, of Houston, pleaded guilty today before United States District Judge David Hittner to charges of harboring illegal aliens within the United States and using, possessing or brandishing a firearm during a crime of violence, United States Attorney José Angel Moreno announced today. Jose Isidro Morales, 38, and Juan Carlos Rodriguez, 32, both natives of El Salvador, also pleaded guilty to the same charges, on June 24 and June 17, 2011, respectively. 

On April 7, 2011, an individual contacted the FBI to report that a person had been kidnapped and was being held for ransom in Houston. The individual gave agents the phone number used by the hostage takers to make contact and demand payment for the safe return of the hostage. Further investigation discovered the phone was located in the 1400 block of Longview in Houston.

On April 8, 2011, FBI agents and Harris County Sheriff’s deputies made entry into the trailer at the Longview location. Inside, Morales and Rodriguez were found along with three hostages. Further investigation indicated that Corvera was also involved in the holding the victims. Two of the victims positively identified Corvera as having participated in the crime.

Subsequent interviews of the three hostages, all of whom were aliens illegally within the United States, indicated that at least two of the defendants had kidnapped the three hostages from a “stash” house at gunpoint and forced them to the Longview location. The hostages were punched, kicked and threatened with dismemberment and death if payment for their release was not forthcoming. In addition, the hostages were held at gunpoint by the three defendants in order to intimidate the hostages and to prevent their escape. The conspirators made phone calls to the person who had reported the kidnapping and other friends and family members of the hostages demanding payment for the release of the hostages.

Agents recovered a 9mm semiautomatic pistol from Rodriguez after he pointed it at the deputies who entered the trailer. Agents also recovered a .38 revolver, a .762 semiautomatic rifle and a Bowie-style knife. All three firearms were loaded with live ammunition. 

Corvera, Morales and Rodriguez are set for sentencing on Sept. 27, Sept. 26, and Sept. 13, 2011, respectively. The defendants face a minimum of five years to a maximum of life imprisonment on the firearms conviction and a maximum of 10 years confinement on the harboring conviction. Each count carries a potential fine of up to $250,000. The defendants will face deportation upon release from prison.
The FBI and the Harris County Sheriff’s Office conducted the investigation. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Doug Davis.