News and Press Releases

Leader and Members of Human Smuggling Organization Sent to Federal Prison

March 6, 2012

VICTORIA, Texas – Lorena Martinez, 37, of Portland, Texas, the leader of a locally-based human smuggling organization, has been sentenced to 42 months in prison, United States Attorney Kenneth Magidson announced today. Martinez previously entered a guilty plea to two counts of bringing in and harboring aliens.

Also sentenced today was former Portland, Texas, firefighter Peter Jones, 30; along with Beatrice Rodriguez, 40, and April Stevens, 30, both of Corpus Christi, Texas; Pedro Vargas, 33, of Houston; and Mexican citizen Jesus Alcala-Mendoza, 31. U.S. District Judge John D. Rainey, who handed down the sentences today, also ordered the forfeiture of two real properties as proceeds derived from the criminal conspiracy.

The result of this investigation has revealed a large scale human smuggling organization based in Corpus Christi and Portland, Texas, which specialized in smuggling Brazilian Nationals into the United States. According to court records, this organization had operated with impunity for decades, transporting aliens illegally present in the United States. They were transported in the back of enclosed tractor trailers to Robstown, Texas, where they were unloaded and disseminated to points north. Over the course of the investigation, agents also uncovered approximately $500,000 in Western Union transactions between Martinez and other co-conspirators in relation to their illegal activities. 

Rodriguez previously pleaded guilty to one count of bringing in and harboring aliens was sentenced today to 33 months in prison. Alcala-Mendoza, Jones and Vargas all pleaded guilty to conspiracy to transport aliens received sentences of 42 months, 12 months and one day, and four months in prison, respectively. Stevens, who also pleaded guilty to the conspiracy charge was ordered to serve two years of probation.

Stevens, Jones and Vargas were allowed to remain on bond and voluntarily surrender to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons (BOP) facility to be determined in the near future, while Alcala-Mendoza and Martinez were ordered to remain in custody pending transfer to a BOP facility.

Alejandro Hernandez, 53, of San Antonio, Texas, who also pleaded guilty to conspiracy to transport aliens will be sentenced May 14, 2012. He will remain in custody pending that hearing.

The indictments and convictions are the result of an on-going investigation led by Immigration and Customs Enforcement - Homeland Security Investigations in joint cooperation with the Corpus Christi Police Department Organized Crime Unit, the police and fire departments in Portland and the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney, Patti Hubert Booth.

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