March 2, 2011

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(LAREDO, Texas) – A Laredo jury has convicted a Mexican national, who guided a group of aliens across the Rio Grande and through the South Texas brush, guilty of bringing in and transporting undocumented aliens from Mexico into the United States, United States Attorney José Angel Moreno announced today.

Following two days of trial testimony, a federal jury found Moises Gutierrez-Castro, 39, of San Luis Potosi, Mexico, guilty of two counts bringing undocumented aliens into the United States from Mexico and of two counts of transporting undocumented aliens by guiding them through the brush. The verdicts were returned on Tuesday, March 1, 2011.

Through the testimony of Border Patrol (BP) agents, who investigated the case and made the early morning arrest of Gutierrez-Castro on a ranch about three miles west of IH-35 and north of Artesia Wells, Texas, in November 2010, the jury learned that  BP agents on patrol in Encinal, Texas, discovered evidence of a group of persons traveling on foot on Kreuger Road. Agents tracked the group and ultimately located and apprehended 10 persons within the Los Senderos Ranch, several miles northeast from where their tracks were originally spotted. Los Senderos Ranch is on IH-35 near Artesia Wells at approximately the 51 mile marker, halfway between Encinal and Cotulla. 

Upon initially sighting BP agents, the group scattered but were located with the assistance of Customs and Border Protection (CBP) canine and CBP Air and Marine group air support. Eight of the persons apprehended were Guatemalan nationals, while the other two - including Gutierrez-Castro - were Mexican nationals. Gutierrez-Castro, who carried a Mexican voting identification card and an cell phone, was the last person to be found and detained. The other nine were determined to be illegally in the United States with no documents allowing them to enter, travel through or remain in the United States.              

Two of the Guatemalan aliens apprehended with the defendant testified at trial. One of the witnesses - a Guatemalan female - detailed her travel first by airplane from Guatemala to Monterrey, Mexico, then by bus to Nuevo Laredo, where she met with Gutierrez-Castro, who was introduced to her as "Moi." The female agreed to pay Gutierrez-Castro $1,000 to be smuggled into Laredo and taken north to San Antonio, Texas. Her final destination was to be in Maryland. On the instructions of Gutierrez-Castro, a friend of the female had wired $400 to an unknown person. The remaining $600 was to be paid upon her arrival in San Antonio. The female was taken to a house in Nuevo Laredo where she met the other Guatemalan aliens. On Monday, Nov. 1, 2010, the entire group crossed the Rio Grande River in the vicinity of the Columbia Bridge by boat and walked through the brush, carrying only their food and water, until apprehended on Nov. 5, 2010. Gutierrez-Castro was the group’s guide across the river and through the brush.

While hiking through the brush and before being apprehension, Gutierrez instructed the group members to run and hide in the brush if they heard a helicopter and to keep quiet. During rest periods, the female said Gutierrez-Castro and another guide, who traveled mostly in the rear, would separate themselves from the group of Guatemalans and the one Mexican they were guiding.

The second material witness - a Guatemalan male - testified he was smuggled into the United States and was to be transported further north to Baltimore, Md. His mother paid half of the $3,500 payment up front, which covered the air travel, and the other half was to be paid when he got to Maryland. He entered Mexico from the Guatemalan border with a valid Mexican visa and then flew to Monterrey. He traveled by bus to Nuevo Laredo and arrived on Oct. 29, 2010. He, along with the other members of the group, crossed the Rio Grande River on Nov. 1, 2010, on a small metal boat then began their trek through the brush guided by Gutierrez-Castro and a second guide who was not apprehended. The group walked nine to 12 hours a day and stopped only to rest for a few hours and eat.

Gutierrez-Castro will be sentenced on May 25, 2011, at 9:00 a.m. and faces a minimum mandatory sentence of three years up to a maximum of 10 years imprisonment along with a fine of up to $250,000. In custody without bond since his November 2010 arrest, Gutierrez-Castro will remain in custody pending sentencing.

Assistant United States Attorney Roberto F. Ramirez is prosecuting the case.

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