Operators of “Welcome to Hell” Stash House Admit Their Guilt
|May 23, 2012|
McALLEN, Texas - Vicente Ortiz-Soto and Marcial Salas-Gardunio, both 23 and Mexican nationals, have pleaded guilty to the charge of conspiracy to harbor aliens, United States Attorney Kenneth Magidson announced today.
United States District Judge Randy Crane held a hearing today where both Ortiz-Soto and Salas-Gardunio admitted to their role in the conspiracy and opted to plead guilty. The plea is the result of an investigation whereby local law enforcement officers working alongside federal authorities were sent to a residence in Edinburg, Texas, on May 2, 2012, after a 911 caller indicated he was being held against his will in an alien stash house. Upon arrival at the scene, according to the criminal complaint, authorities discovered more than 100 undocumented aliens of various countries of origin located in three separate buildings on the property. One building was chain-locked and several undocumented aliens who were locked inside the building were later treated for injuries. Statements taken from the undocumented aliens indicated they were allegedly threatened by Salas-Gardunio that they would be beaten or killed if they did not remain quiet. Additionally, witnesses indicated Salas-Gardunio stated "Welcome to Hell" when undocumented aliens arrived at the residence.
Ortiz-Soto and Salas-Gardunio were arrested on May 2, 2012, following the filing of a criminal complaint and will remain in federal custody without bond per court order pending sentencing. An indictment was returned against the defendants on May 15, 2012. A date for their sentencing has been set for July 30, 2012, at 2:00, at which time Ortiz-Soto and Salas-Gardunio face a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000 on each count.
This case is being investigated by Homeland Security Investigations with the assistance of Border Patrol. Assistant U.S. Attorney Cory J.H. Crenshaw is prosecuting the case.