News and Press Releases

Leader and Two Others Sentenced in Multi-Year Alien Smuggling Conspiracy

Nov. 16, 2012

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – Three people have been sentenced for their involvement in a conspiracy to harbor and transport illegal aliens, United States Attorney Kenneth Magidson announced today along with Brian Moskowitz, special agent in charge of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI). Armando Olmedo-Trevino, 47, Ricky Garibaldi, 46, and John Castillo Jr., 31, all of Wharton, were all sentenced just a short time ago. 

In determining Olmedo-Trevino was a leader in the conspiracy, Senior U.S. District Judge Janis Graham Jack handed him a sentence of 120 months in federal prison, the statutory maximum. Garibaldi and Castillo received respective sentences of 60 and 65 months. All were also ordered to serve a term of three years in prison following completion of their respective sentences. 

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, running the operation from his home in Wharton.

With the exception of aliens smuggling across ranches in the Falfurrias area, illegal aliens were picked up in the Edinburg area and transported north through one of the Border Patrol Checkpoints in Falfurrias or Sarita. 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 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 and estimate that the organization transported 40 aliens per month.  

To date, 31 others have been sentenced in this case, including Maria Herrera, 34, of Wharton, who was sentenced Wednesday to 57 months. Others sentenced to date include Petronilo Sanchez-Jimenez, 43, Norma Leticia Silva-Garcia, 39, and Sandro Alvarez-Maldonado,35, all of Edinburg, Texas; Oscar Garza-Perales, 28, of Wharton; and Tracy Howard, 48, Christian Russo, 40, both of Houston.

Sanchez-Jimenez, responsible for getting illegal aliens across the border and harbored in stash houses located in the Rio Grande Valley until those aliens could be transported north, was sentenced to 87 months, while Silva-Garcia and Alvarez-Maldonado, who assisted Sanchez-Jimenez in harboring illegal aliens, received 67 and 51 months, respectively. Howard and Russo began transporting aliens themselves but later became recruiters of drivers for the organization and, as a result, will now serve respective sentences of 87 and 78 months in prison. Garza-Perales was also a recruiter and received a sentence of 71 months. The rest who have been sentenced thus far have received sentences ranging from probation to 87 months for their varying roles in the conspiracy. Sentencings for the remaining 2 co-conspirators identified in this investigation are scheduled for later this year. 

Those charged in relation to this case were identified through a long-term investigation conducted by HSI. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Chad W. Cowan and Jeffrey D. Preston. 

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