Houston Jury Convicts Illegal Alien in Hostage Taking Case
|June 6, 2012|
Defendant Faces Life in Prison
HOUSTON - Cesar Avila, 35, an illegal alien from Honduras, has been convicted of hostage taking conspiracy, four counts of hostage taking, one count of using a firearm during a crime of violence and four counts of aiding and abetting the harboring of illegal aliens, United States Attorney Kenneth Magidson announced today. The returned its verdicts following a three-day jury trial before U.S. District Judge Lee H. Rosenthal.
Testimony adduced during the trial showed that on Aug. 19, 2011, the Houston Emergency Center received a 911 call at its operations facility from a subject who spoke only Spanish. The victim advised he was being held against his will at a house in Houston by alien smugglers who had been hired to smuggle him to an unspecified location in the United States. He claimed Avila was armed with a handgun and had threatened them with death and they were in fear of their lives.
The residence was eventually located on the 100 block of Jamaica Street in Houston by officers with the Houston Police Department. The location had no windows and the French doors on the north side of the residence had its glass panes covered with aluminum foil.
Once inside the location, several people, later identified as hostages, began pointing to Avila as the hostage taker and smuggler. Officers also discovered a semi-automatic handgun and a ledger detailing payments by the smuggling organization under the mattress where Avila was sitting.
One of the victims advised officers he had been in the Houston area for approximately eight days and had been moved around from house to house in the Houston area with five other aliens. He admitted he was in the country illegally and that he had paid smugglers $5,000 to smuggle him into the United States. He identified Avila as the subject who was holding him, was constantly armed with the handgun and had threatened to kill him if he tried to escape. Further testimony revealed that the smugglers were threatening to kill him if his family did not pay an additional $5,000.
The mother of one of the victims testified that she and her family had been contacted by smugglers demanding more money and threatening her son’s life as well as the life of her family if the additional money was not paid. She was so frightened she contacted police who conducted surveillance to protect them. He daughter also testified that the family raised money by borrowing it from friends and sent as much money as they could via wire transfer to smugglers in Mexico.
Sentencing is scheduled for Oct. 9, 2012 , at which time Avila faces up to life in prison and a maximum fine of $250,000.
The case was investigated by the Houston Police Department and Homeland Security Investigations. The case was prosecuted by Julie Searle and Douglas Davis.