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Press Release

Final Member of Human Smuggling Organization Sentenced for Smuggling 90 Individuals From Mexico, Guatemala, and Honduras

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of Arizona

TUCSON, Ariz. – Salvador Lopez-Vargas, 36, of Michoacan, Mexico, was sentenced last week by United States District Judge Scott H. Rash to a term of 36 months in prison, followed by three years of supervised release, for his management role in a criminal conspiracy to harbor and transport 90 undocumented non-citizens (UNCs). Lopez-Vargas pleaded guilty on December 8, 2022, to Conspiracy to Transport Illegal Aliens for Profit.

Agents from Homeland Security Investigations-Douglas conducted surveillance and discovered that UNCs were being transported to a house and an apartment in the Phoenix Metro area from various parking lots nearby. During the execution of search warrants, 51 UNCs were found in the house, and 32 UNCs were located in the apartment. As agents searched the house, Lopez-Vargas arrived driving a van and then attempted to leave. Agents stopped the van, and discovered seven UNCs were located inside the vehicle. During the investigation, several UNCs, who had traveled from Mexico, Guatemala, or Honduras, provided statements indicating they had crossed into the United States from Mexico in automobiles, and then arrived at the house or apartment to await further transportation to their final destinations in the United States. It was determined that Lopez-Vargas picked up UNCs at various locations and transported them to the apartment or the house, which were stash houses he managed as part of his role in the conspiracy.

Previously, Lopez-Vargas’s co-conspirators, Eleazar Soto-Diaz, 35, and Jesus Gabriel Villela-Duran, 28, both from Michoacan, Mexico, were each sentenced to 13 months and one day in prison for their roles in the conspiracy as supervisors of the stash houses.

This prosecution resulted from the coordinated efforts of Joint Task Force Alpha (JTFA). The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Arizona is part of JTFA, which was established by Attorney General Merrick B. Garland in June 2021 to marshal the investigative and prosecutorial resources of the Department of Justice, in partnership with the Department of Homeland Security, to enhance U.S. enforcement efforts against the most prolific and dangerous human smuggling and trafficking groups operating in Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras. The Task Force focuses on disrupting and dismantling smuggling and trafficking networks that abuse, exploit, or endanger migrants, pose national security threats, and are involved in organized crime.

The investigation in this case was conducted by Homeland Security Investigations-Douglas, in coordination with Homeland Security Investigations-Sells and Phoenix, Enforcement and Removal Office -Phoenix, and Customs and Border Protection’s United States Border Patrol in Tucson and Casa Grande. The United States Attorney’s Office, District of Arizona, Tucson, handled the prosecution.

CASE NUMBER:           CR-22-02072-TUC-SHR
RELEASE NUMBER:    2023-058_Lopez-Vargas

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Public Affairs
Diana L. Varela
(602) 514-7743

Updated April 24, 2023

Human Smuggling
Press Release Number: 2023-058_Lopez-Vargas