Illegal Alien Gets 35 Years in Hostage Taking Case
|Nov. 5, 2012|
HOUSTON - Cesar Avila, 38, an illegal alien from Honduras, has been sentenced to federal prison following his multiple convictions in a hostage taking and alien harboring conspiracy, United States Attorney Kenneth Magidson announced today. The jury convicted Avila of hostage taking conspiracy, four counts of hostage taking, using a firearm during a crime of violence and four counts of aiding and abetting the harboring of illegal aliens following a three-day jury trial concluded on June 6, 2012.
Today, U.S. District Judge Lee H. Rosenthal, who presided over the trial, handed Avila the 35-year sentence and ordered him to pay a $1,000 special assessment. At the hearing today, additional testimony was presented by one of two female victims who had been sexually assaulted by Avila and provided graphic testimony as to how she was abused and how that abuse has affected her. In handing down the sentence, Judge Rosenthal noted that Avila’s statement that he had himself been a victim of smugglers was “chilling” when considered in light of the evidence presented at trial. As an illegal alien, Avila is expected to face deportation proceedings following his release from prison.
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.
Several of the aliens held hostage also identified Carlos Martinez-Aguilar, 44, an illegal alien from Mexico, as having come into the building where they were being held and drinking beer with Avila in the hours prior to law enforcement arrival and that Martinez-Aguilar had inquired about the status of payments of smuggling fees. The victims indicated Martinez-Aguilar was not involved in abusing or threatening them and had provided them food and blankets. Officers discovered Martinez-Aguilar had been living in the larger house in front of the building where the aliens were housed.
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 at trial 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. Her 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.
Avila will remain in custody pending transfer to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near future.
Martinez-Aguilar was previously sentenced to 36 months after previously pleading guilty to one count of harboring illegal aliens.
The case was investigated by the Houston Police Department and Homeland Security Investigations. The case was prosecuted by Julie Searle and Douglas Davis.