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Nov. 3, 2011

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Final Defendant in Harboring Case Gets Nine Years

HOUSTON – El Salvadorian native Jose Isidro Morales, 38, will be spending the next nine years in prison as a result of his criminal behavior related to harboring illegal aliens, United States Attorney Kenneth Magidson announced today. U.S. District Judge David Hittner sentenced Morales this morning to 24 months imprisonment for harboring illegal aliens to be followed by a mandatory seven-year sentence for brandishing a firearm during a crime of violence. Two co-defendants, Juan Corvera, 32, of Houston, and Juan Carlos Rodriguez, 32, of El Salvador, were sentenced on Oct. 5 and Sept. 13, respectively, to 30 and 18 months on the harboring charge with each to also serve a consecutive mandatory seven-year sentence for brandishing a firearm. 

The case began on April 7, 2011, when 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. 

All three men have 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 defendants will face deportation upon release from prison.

The FBI and the Harris County Sheriff’s Office conducted the investigation. The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Douglas Davis.