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Press Release

Fact Sheet: Initiative to Combat Transnational Human Smuggling and Trafficking Networks Marks Third Anniversary

For Immediate Release
Office of Public Affairs

Attorney General Merrick B. Garland announced Joint Task Force Alpha (JTFA) in June 2021 in partnership with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to strengthen the Justice Department’s efforts to combat prolific and dangerous human smuggling and trafficking emanating from Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, and Mexico and impacting our border communities, with a particular focus on individuals and networks that abuse, exploit, or endanger those being smuggled, pose national security threats, or have links to transnational organized crime.

Since its creation in June 2021, JTFA has delivered significant results, including:

  • 300+ domestic and international arrests, including against leaders, organizers, and significant facilitators;
  • 240+ U.S. convictions;
  • 170+ U.S. defendants sentenced, including significant jail sentences imposed;
  • Substantial seizures and forfeiture of assets and contraband including hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash, real property, vehicles, firearms and ammunition, and drugs; and
  • Multiple indictments and precedent setting extraditions of foreign leadership targets.

Over the past three years, JTFA has successfully increased coordination and collaboration between the Justice Department, DHS, and with foreign law enforcement partners, targeted those organizations who have the most impact on the United States, and coordinated significant investigations, indictments, extraditions, and successful prosecution efforts both across the Southwest border and overseas.

Prosecutors from the U.S. Attorneys’ Offices for the Southern District of Texas, Western District of Texas, District of New Mexico, District of Arizona, and Southern District of California are detailed to JTFA to pursue its mission. Dedicated personnel and support is also provided by numerous components of the Justice Department that are part of JTFA, led by the Criminal Division's Human Rights and Special Prosecutions Section and supported by the Office of Overseas Prosecutorial Development, Assistance and Training; Narcotic and Dangerous Drug Section; Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section; Office of Enforcement Operations; Office of International Affairs; and Violent Crime and Racketeering Section, along with the Executive Office for the U.S. Attorneys (EOUSA).

JTFA is made possible by substantial law enforcement investment from Homeland Security Investigations, Customs and Border Protection, and Border Patrol, along with support from the FBI, Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF), Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Department of State’s Diplomatic Security Service (DSS), Transportation Security Administration (TSA), Federal Air Marshals, and U.S. Coast Guard.

In December 2023, OCDETF announced the creation of a new strategic initiative to expand and further enhance targeting of TCOs and human smuggling and trafficking networks within its framework.

Press release announcing JTFA and readouts from national meetings

Key cases

  • United States v. Maria Mendoza-Mendoza (District of Arizona)

    • First ever extradition from Honduras of prolific human smuggler.

  • United States v. Erminia Serrano Piedra, et al. (Southern District of Texas

  • United States v. Allison, et al. (Eastern District of Louisiana)

  • United States v. Ronaldo Galindo Lopez-Escobar, et al. (District of New Mexico)

    • Ten indicted and six arrested in investigation of the Lopez Crime Family human smuggling organization operating in Guatemala, Mexico, and the United States.

  • Operation Pollos Hermanos (District of Arizona)

    • Cooperation between United States and Mexico results in takedown operation to dismantle a prolific transnational human smuggling organization operating in Nogales, Sonora, along the U.S.-Mexico border.

    • Man pleaded guilty to operating Phoenix stash house and sentenced to 57 months in prison for conspiracy to transport and harbor illegal migrants for profit.

    • Woman pleaded guilty to transporting and harboring over 100 noncitizens.

    • Man pleaded guilty for role as coordinator for human smuggling organization in Nogales, Arizona.

    • Coordinator sentenced to 78 months in prison for role in conspiracy to transport and harbor illegal migrants for profit and illegal reentry.

    • Man sentenced to 46 months in prison for conspiracy to transport and harbor illegal migrants for profit.

    • Two men sentenced to 45 months in prison for roles in smuggling noncitizens to the United States.

  • United States v. Victor Alfonso Soto Aguilar, et al. (Southern District of California)
    • Two defendant boat operators pleaded guilty for maritime smuggling resulting in the death of one passenger in La Jolla and sentenced to 71 and 60 months in prison.
  • United States v. Gilberto Morales (Western District of Texas)

  • United States v. Milon Miah (Southern District of Texas)

    • Defendant sentenced to 46 months in prison for role in smuggling noncitizens from Mexico to United States.

  • United States v. Jose Luis Avalo, et al. (District of New Mexico)

    • Nine alleged human smugglers indicted in migrant smuggling organization.

  • United States v. Jimenez-Bautista (Southern District of California)

    • Man pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting a juvenile while smuggling group from Mexico to United States.

Updated June 11, 2024

Human Smuggling
Press Release Number: 24-736