Department of Justice Logo and United States Attorney's Office Header

March 2, 2012

(713) 567-9388

Nine Convicted in Hostage Taking/Harboring Case

McALLEN, Texas – Two men have pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit hostage taking, while seven others entered pleas of guilty to conspiracy to harbor illegal aliens, United States Attorney Kenneth Magidson announced today. 

On Sept. 21, 2011, a relative of an illegal alien contacted authorities after receiving a call and demand for ransom the previous day. The investigation lead authorities to an area around Moorefield Road in Mission, Texas, where they began surveillance and subsequently discovered three males in the vicinity, two of whom were later apprehended - Juan De Dios Cedillo-Narvaez, 30, and Luis Fernando Cedillo-Narvaez, 43, both Mexican citizens. At that time, the cell phone that was used to make the ransom calls was found in the possession of Juan De Dios Cedillo-Narvaez who admitted that aliens were being held in a nearby apartment.

Investigators were given a consent to search the apartment by its renter, Martha Guadalupe Quiroga, 32, also a Mexican citizen. Agents discovered a total of 18 illegal aliens being held hostage, all from Ecuador, Guatemala and Honduras. The victims stated they had been kidnapped from another location and forced to call their families and ask for money or they were going to be injured or something bad would happen to them.

Follow-up up investigation by Immigration and Customs Enforcement - Homeland Security Investigations (ICE-HSI) and the Mission Police Department led to the identification and arrest of Pablo Zepeda-Lechuga, 41, Balatazar Arcos-Torres, 35, and Jose Luis Lopez-Villanueva, 28, all citizens of Mexico illegally present in the United States, as well as Jose Angel Lopez, 21, Ricardo Lopez, 19, Osvaldo Ivan Rodriguez, 22, and Sarai Torres-Hernandez, 25, all United States citizens.

Juan De Dios Cedillo-Narvaez and Luis Fernando Cedillo-Narvaez were responsible for guarding the aliens at the stash house and having them call their families for ransom money in addition to organizing the hostage taking operation. Quiroga provided her apartment to harbor the victims and also provided food and water to them, while Rodriguez and Torres-Hernandez were involved in collecting the ransom and smuggling fees from different Western Union locations. Zepeda-Lechuga, Lopez-Villanueva, Arcos-Torres and Ricardo Lopez were the ones who took the victims from their original location and transported them to the stash house where they were ultimately held for ransom. 
Today, Juan De Dios Cedillo-Narvaez and Luis Fernando Cedillo-Narvaez pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit hostage taking before U.S. District Judge Randy Crane. They are set for sentencing on May 16, 2012, at which time they face up to life in prison, a $250,000 fine or both. Quiroga, Zepeda-Lechuga, Lopez-Villanueva, Arcos-Torres, Ricardo Lopez, Rodriguez and Torres-Hernandez pleaded guilty to conspiracy to harbor illegal aliens and face a maximum of 10 years in prison, a $250,000 fine or both. They are also set for sentencing on May 16, 2012. 
The case against Jose Angel Lopez is still pending. He is facing charges of conspiracy to commit hostage taking and conspiracy to harbor illegal aliens. He is presumed innocent unless and until convicted through due process of law.

The investigation was conducted by ICE-HSI and the Mission Police Department. Assistant United States Attorneys Patricia A. Rigney, Kristen Rees and Jimmy Leo prosecuted the case.