U.S. Seeks Death Penalty in Human Smuggling Case
|Oct. 4, 2012|
HOUSTON – A superceding indictment has been returned charging six defendants with multiple counts of engaging in transporting and harboring aliens, harboring aliens and money laundering, Unites States Attorney Kenneth Magidson announced today. The United States Attorney’s Office – Southern District of Texas has been authorized by Attorney General Eric Holder to seek the death penalty against one of those defendants, Wilmar Rene Duran-Gomez, 40, a lawful permanent resident from El Salvador.
The superseding indictment, returned just a short time ago, charges Duran-Gomez with conspiracy to transport and harbor aliens, money laundering and harboring aliens resulting in the death of two Honduran men. Jose Alberto Bolanos-Garza, 31, and Efrain Rodriguez Mendoza, 36, both citizens from Mexico, are charged with conspiracy to transport and harbor aliens and harboring aliens resulting in death. Jose Fuentes, 58, from Mexico, Patricia Holguin, 46, and Mauricio Mercado, 39, both from El Salvador, are also named in the indictment and charged with conspiracy to transport and harbor aliens.
The superseding indictment alleges all six defendants conspired to smuggle aliens into the United States.
On or about Nov. 7, 2006, illegal aliens were allegedly delivered to an address in southwest Houston. The superseding indictment further indicates that some of the aliens started a fire at the warehouse where they were being held in order to attempt an escape. This attempt failed and, as a consequence, the aliens were allegedly beaten by Duran, Bolanos-Garza and Mendoza as punishment.
The superseding indictment further alleges Duran caused the bodies of the deceased victims to be moved from the warehouse to a vacant lot in Fort Bend County where the bodies were discovered on Nov. 15, 2006.
Duran and Bolanos-Garza are in federal custody where they will remain pending further criminal proceeding. Fuentes, Holguin and Mercado were permitted to remain on bond. Mendoza is a fugitive and a warrant remains outstanding for his arrest.
If convicted of conspiracy to transport and harbor illegal aliens, each defendant faces a possible 10-year-term of imprisonment. Duran also faces up to 20 years imprisonment if convicted of money laundering. Harboring aliens resulting in the death of a person carries a possible life sentence. Duran, however, could potentially face death if he is convicted of this offence.
The case was investigated by Homeland Security Investigations and Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation. Assistant United States Attorneys Ruben R. Perez, Joe Magliolo and Jennie Basile are prosecuting.