News and Press Releases

Leader and Others Convicted in Multi-Year Alien Smuggling Conspiracy

March 5, 2012

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – The leader and six others have pleaded guilty for their involvement in a conspiracy to harbor and transport illegal aliens, United States Attorney Kenneth Magidson announced today along with Robert Rutt, special agent in charge of Immigration and Customs Enforcement – Homeland Security Investigations (ICE-HSI).

A sealed indictment was returned Jan. 25, 2012, and later unsealed following the arrest of 12 persons involved in this conspiracy. Today, with the guilty plea of John Castillo, 31, of Wharton, Texas, all 12 of those now stand convicted. On Feb. 22, 2012, the indictment was superceded and unsealed upon the arrest of an additional 19 defendants in association with this case.

Armando Olmedo-Trevino, 47, who is considered to be the leader of the multi-year conspiracy, pleaded guilty late Friday before Senior United States District Judge Janis Graham Jack, admitting he engaged in a conspiracy to harbor illegal aliens in buildings and other places and to transport illegal aliens by means of a motor vehicle from Aug. 9, 2002, to Jan. 31, 2012. Also entering pleas of guilty Friday were Tracy Howard, 47, Christian Russo, 39, Oscar Garza-Perales, 28, Sandro Alvarez-Maldonado, 35, and Cristobal Ochoa, 48. Five others have previously entered pleas of guilty - Maria Herrera, 34, Norma Leticia Silva-Garcia, 38, Petronilo Sanchez-Jimenez, 42, Donna Simkins, 45, and Ricky Garibaldi, 46, and will be sentenced on May 3, 2012.

According to the documents in support of the plea, Olmedo-Trevino and others engaged in a conspiracy to harbor and transport illegal aliens from Aug. 9, 2002, until his arrest on Jan. 27, 2012. He began transporting aliens himself, then rose to be a leader in the conspiracy. He was caught transporting aliens on at least two occasions and thereafter became a leader in the conspiracy, running the operation from his home in Wharton, Texas. Throughout the charged conspiracy, Olmedo-Trevino worked with numerous people that recruited drivers to transport aliens for the organization, some of whom included Castillo, Simkins, Howard, Russo, Garibaldi and Garza-Perales. Olmedo-Trevino also worked with other co-conspirators, including Sanchez-Jimenez, in getting illegal aliens across the border and harbored in stash houses located in the Rio Grande Valley until those aliens could be transported North.        

In most cases, no more than five illegal aliens would be transported hidden underneath blankets or luggage in between the seats of an SUV or minivan. However, in a few instances, illegal aliens were transported in other ways, such as in the trunk of a car. In June 2011, Olmedo-Trevino and others modified a trailer with a false compartment intended to conceal up to 15 illegal aliens.

Over the course of the 10-year conspiracy, agents seized approximately 400 aliens being transported.

Olmedo-Trevino, Castillo and the others who pleaded guilty Friday are set for sentencing May 24, 2012. All those convicted to date face up to 10 years in prison and up to a $250,000 fine.
A notice of forfeiture has also been entered for approximately $83,000 and two residences, which have been seized as part of the overall investigation.

The indictment and arrests are the result of an on-going investigation by ICE-HSI in cooperation with the United States Attorney’s Office. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Chad W. Cowan and Jeffrey D. Preston. 



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