News and Press Releases

Co-Operator of “Welcome to Hell” Stash House Sent to Prison

Dec. 17, 2012

McALLEN, Texas – Mexican national Vicente Ortiz-Soto, 24, one of the operators of what has become known as the "welcome to hell" stash house, has landed in federal prison, United States Attorney Kenneth Magidson announced today. Ortiz-Soto, was arrested on May 2, 2012, along with Marcial Salas-Gardunio, 24, following the filing of a criminal complaint. The indictment against them was returned May 15 and they pleaded guilty eight days later to conspiracy to harbor illegal aliens.

Today, U.S. District Judge Randy Crane held the second sentencing hearing, at which time Ortiz-Soto was confronted with punishment evidence and subsequently sentenced to 103 months in federal prison. The sentence included enhancements for numerous aggravating factors including placing the aliens at risk of serious bodily injury, use of a deadly weapon, causing actual bodily injury and making threats of serious bodily injury or death. Salas-Gardunio was sentenced on Oct. 29 to 97 months in federal prison. 

The sentencings are the result of an investigation whereby local law enforcement officers working alongside federal authorities were sent to a residence in Edinburg on May 2, 2012, after a 911 caller indicated he was being held against his will in an alien stash house. Upon arrival at the scene, authorities discovered more than 100 undocumented aliens of various countries of origin located in three separate buildings on the property. One building was chain-locked and several undocumented aliens who were locked inside the building were later treated for injuries. Statements taken from the undocumented aliens indicated they were threatened by Salas-Gardunio and that they would be beaten or killed if they did not remain quiet. Additionally, witnesses indicated Salas-Gardunio stated "welcome to hell" when aliens arrived at the residence.

Both have been in custody since their arrests. 

This case was investigated by Homeland Security Investigations with the assistance of Border Patrol. Assistant U.S. Attorney Cory J. H. Crenshaw prosecuted the case, now with the Eastern District of Texas, and Kristen Rees prosecuted the case.