16 Indicted in Drug Trafficking and Alien Smuggling Ring
|Oct. 17, 2012|
HOUSTON - A total of 16 people have been charged with alien smuggling and/or drug smuggling conspiracies following a two-year investigation, United States Attorney Kenneth Magidson announced today along with Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Special Agent in Charge Sean McElroy and Houston Police Department (HPD) Chief Charles McClelland.
The two-year investigation resulted in the return of two sealed indictments Sept. 20, 2012, which were unsealed following the execution of arrest warrants early this morning.
The first indictment outlines a long term smuggling operation dating back to July of 2011. According to the indictment, undocumented aliens were smuggled across the United States-Mexico border and were either required to pay a fee or transport narcotics into the country to satisfy their smuggling debt. The indictment outlines how this group would allegedly use conference calls during their smuggling venture as they attempted to locate and avoid law enforcement presence. Aliens and drugs were transported through the South Texas area, into and throughout the United States, according to the charges. Those operating the smuggling ring were allegedly paid large sums of money for their involvement.
"These transnational criminal organizations account for a growing amount of crime in our communities and across the country," said McElroy. "HSI is committed to working with our local law enforcement partners to keep our neighborhoods safe."
Among those taken into custody in relation to this case were: Eliazar Gonzales, 28, Jose Luis Fuentes, 30, Daniel Avila, 29, Jose Antonio Lopez, 24, Jose Galvan Arranda, 50, Israel Alcaraz, 31, and Vinnie Chavez, 34, all of Houston. Mexican national Marino Garcia, 36, and El Salvadorian Otoniel Dumari Hernandez-Rojas, 31, were also arrested. They are expected to appear before Magistrate Judge Mary Milloy this morning or tomorrow.
Ruben Avila, 31, of Houston, was arrested in Victoria and will make an initial appearance there before being transferred to Houston, while Noemi Rosales-Sanchez, 35, of Roma, is expected to make her initial appearance in McAllen.
Fidel Galarza Cardenas, 46, of Mexico, made his initial appearance on Oct. 11 after being transferred from the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.
If convicted of the marijuana conspiracy charge, the defendants face up to 40 years imprisonment and an $5 million fine as well as a possible 10 years and $250,000 fine for alien smuggling, upon conviction.
Three others were also arrested today in relation to the overall investigation but charged in a separate case and are also expected to appear today or tomorrow before Judge Milloy. Aldo Teyes-Sanchez, 29, Eulogio Alanis, 27, both of Houston, and Mexican national Saul Porros-Sanchez, 24, are charged with conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute cocaine as is Antonio Rivas-Vargas, 29, who is considered a fugitive. They face a possible 40 years in prison and a $5 million fine.
All those taken into custody today are expected to appear either this morning or tomorrow morning before U.S. Magistrate Judge Mary Milloy.
The charges are the result of an investigation by HSI and HPD with the assistance of the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
The cases will be prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Mark E. Donnelly and Timothy S. Braley.
An indictment is a formal accusation of criminal conduct, not evidence.
A defendant is presumes innocent unless and until convicted through due process of law.