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June 27, 2011

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Hostage Taker Who Accidently Shot Himself Sentenced Along With Three Others

McALLEN, Texas – Four men convicted of the hostage taking of 10 aliens including one who accidently shot himself while threatening the hostages, have been sentenced to prison, United States Attorney José Angel Moreno announced today. 

Freddy Bermudez-Benito, 28, Mario Leon-Villa, 21, Juan Alberto Jimenez, 25, and Jose Rocha Pinon, 25, were sentenced to 240, 168, 140, and 108 months, respectively, today by U.S. District Judge Randy Crane for their role in the hostage taking. A fifth defendant, Hugo Oscar Rodriguez-Montoya, 37, of Tamaulipas, Mexico, remains to be sentenced later this month. Each defendant has also been ordered to serve a three-year period of supervised release. All defendants entered pleas of guilty in late 2010 and early 2011.

According to the record of the case, on May 10, 2010, Immigration and Customs Enforcement – Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) special agents were notified that Leon-Villa, of Guanajuato, Mexico, had shot himself during a botched alien smuggling attempt. At that time, agents interviewed a smuggled alien who had escaped from Leon-Villa and the others. The smuggled alien told agents he had made arrangements to be smuggled into the United States. During the early hours of May 10, 2010, his smuggler placed him and at least nine other aliens, including one child, in a truck. He went on to state that before they could leave their location, Bermudez-Benito, of Guanajuato, Mexico, and another unidentified male assaulted their driver at gunpoint and took them and the truck to a house in Penitas, Texas. They were all told that they needed to pay $2000 as a condition for their release. The smuggled alien and several others managed to escape their captors who were all armed. It was at this time that Leon-Villa accidentally shot himself while threatening the remaining aliens. During the course of the investigation, federal agents were able to locate the remaining smuggled aliens in a stash house in Edinburg, Texas. The aliens were able to identify Leon-Villa as one of the stash house guards and Bermudez-Benito as the one who made some of the extortionate phone calls to their family members. The aliens also identified Jimenez, of Edinburg, Texas, and Pinon, of Edinburg, Texas, as stash house guards.

The defendants have all been in federal custody since their respective arrests and will remain in custody pending transfer to a Bureau of Prisons prison to be designated in the near future where they will serve out their sentences.

This investigation leading to the charges conducted by HSI with the assistance of the Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Office. Assistant United States Attorneys Leo J. Leo III and Kristen Rees prosecuted the case.