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Nov. 15, 2011

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10 Years in Federal Prison for Alien in Smuggling Conspiracy
After hearing from witnesses, the court upwardly departs

Brownsville, Texas – Rogelio Serrano-Lara, 21, of Matamoros, Tamaulipas, Mexico, has been sentenced to 10 years in federal prison for his role in an alien smuggling/transportation conspiracy, United States Attorney Kenneth Magidson announced  today. 

On Sept. 26, 2011, as part of the sentencing hearing, the government presented six witnesses in support of an upward departure of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines. Among the witnesses that testified was a 29-year-old female from El Salvador who stated she was raped by Serrano-Lara. Additional testimony was presented by her daughter and law enforcement officials. Serrano-Lara faced a maximum of 37 months in prison based on the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines, but upon hearing from the government’s witnesses previously and the defense on Oct. 31, 2011, the court handed down the 120-month sentencing against Serrano-Lara yesterday in federal court in Brownsville. In handing down the sentence, U.S. District Judge Andrew S. Hanen noted the
nature, circumstances and seriousness of the offense, and the need to protect the public from future crimes. 

Serrano-Lara pleaded guilty on June 9, 2011, to transporting an alien within the United States.

At Serrano-Lara’s plea hearings, the government’s evidence indicated that on April 27, 2011, Immigration and Customs Enforcement - Homeland Security Investigations (ICE-HSI) agents received information concerning a stash house used for harboring undocumented aliens. Upon attempting a consensual search of a residence on Sybil Street in Brownsville, multiple subjects fled and 13 illegal aliens without proper immigration documents to be in the United States were apprehended.

Further investigation led to the indictment of Hector Josue Velasquez-Cruz, 29, of Honduras, for concealing or harboring a certain undocumented alien for commercial advantage and private financial gain. According to court documents, Velasquez-Cruz admitted to being the caretaker of the residence for four months in exchange for passage to Houston. At the time of his arrest, a total of approximately 34 undocumented aliens had arrived and departed from the stash house during the 17 days Velasquez-Cruz had served as caretaker of the Sybil residence. The investigation also revealed that Yered Esquivel-Medina, 23, of Michoacan, Mexico, had arrived at the residence on the date of the apprehensions and was to serve as the brush guide for the illegal aliens in their passage to Houston by guiding the aliens around the Customs and Border Protection checkpoint.

Through interviews, the agents learned that the 29-year-old female and her family had traveled by bus to Reynosa, Tamaulipas, Mexico, crossed the river on the following day and were eventually transported to the Sybil residence by Serrano-Lara. Upon arrival at the Sybil residence, Serrano-Lara patted them down one by one and robbed them of their money. Later, when the female’s 21-year-old niece and 13-year-old daughter began to cry, Serrano-Lara threatened to kill them and told them he was with the Zetas.

According to court records, the El Salvadorian female was in the kitchen on her second day at the Sybil residence when Serrano-Lara pulled her into the smaller bedroom and told her to surrender herself to him. When she refused, he threatened to rape her daughter instead. She explained how she felt she had no choice and Serrano-Lara proceeded to sexually assault her. During the investigation of Serrano-Lara, other illegal aliens reported that he had robbed them of their money as they arrived at the residence and were transported in the trunk of the vehicle. 

Velasquez-Cruz pleaded guilty on June 9, 2011, to harboring an illegal alien and was sentenced last month to 15 months in prison. Esquivel-Medina pleaded guilty on July 27, 2011, to conspiracy to transport and harbor an alien within the United States. He is pending sentencing for Dec. 15, 2011. All three men have been in custody since their arrest.

The case was investigated by ICE-HSI and is being prosecuted by Assisatant United States Attorney Elena Salinas.