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    United States Attorney's Office
    Central District of California

    Thom Mrozek
    Public Affairs Officer

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    Release No. 10-030

    February 12, 2010


    LOS ANGELES – A federal grand jury today indicted three men who were involved in a smuggling operation that brought hundreds of illegal aliens from Central and South America to the United States and held them at a “drop house” in Lynwood until relatives could pay smuggling fees that ran as high as $13,000.

    The indictment returned this afternoon alleges that the three defendants were guards at the drop house, where illegal aliens sometimes were threatened with death if their smuggling fees were not quickly paid.

    The six-count indictment charges Gustavo Sanchez-Lopez, 30; Diego Martinez-Gonzalez, 28; and Francisco Moreno-Lopez, 55, all of whom have claimed Mexican citizenship but who are believed to be from Guatemala. The three defendants were arrested on January 28, when authorities executed a search warrant at the drop house on South Virginia Avene in Lynwood. At that time, investigators found 37 illegal aliens inside the house.

    The indictment charges all three defendants with one count of conspiracy to harbor and conceal illegal aliens, and five counts of harboring and concealing illegal aliens for financial gain. Each of the defendants faces a statutory maximum penalty of 60 years in federal prison if convicted of the charged offenses.

    The indictment alleges that the three defendants harbored approximately 336 illegal aliens during a two-month period. The illegal aliens who had been smuggled into the United States allegedly were threatened with beatings or death if their smuggling fees were not promptly paid.

    The indictment specifically alleges that Martinez-Gonzalez told female smuggled aliens that they would be allowed to have blankets or jackets if they had sexual relations with him, or that they would not be allowed to shower unless they had sexual relations with him. The indictment also accuses Sanchez-Lopez of telling female smuggled aliens that they would not be allowed to shower unless they had sexual relations with him.

    The three defendants acted as guards in the drop house, according to the indictment, which accuses them of taking turns overseeing the smuggled aliens, controlling the smuggled aliens’ movement within the drop house, and ensuring that smuggled aliens stayed inside the drop house until their smuggling fees were paid.         “Human smuggling is a ruthless, violent enterprise that generates billions of dollars in illicit proceeds,” said Miguel Unzueta, special agent in charge of the ICE Office of Investigations in Los Angeles. “ICE is working aggressively to target the criminals and criminal organizations involved in this dangerous trade who routinely put aliens’ lives at risk.”

    An indictment contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed to be innocent until and unless proven guilty in court.

    The three defendants charged by the grand jury today were previously ordered held without bond. They are scheduled to be arraigned on the indictment on Tuesday morning in United States District Court.

    This investigation is being conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.


    Release No. 10-030
    Return to the 2010 Press Release Index