“Coyote” Pleads Guilty to Conspiring to Defraud Immigrants Seeking to Enter the U.S. and Their Relatives in the United States
FRESNO, Calif. — A man who previously posed as an immigrant smuggler (also known as a “coyote”) pleaded guilty today to a scheme to detain Mexican citizens seeking to enter the U.S. without documentation, and hold them in order to compel their relatives who were U.S. residents to pay money for their release, Acting United States Attorney Phillip A. Talbert announced.
Martin Carranza-Sanchez, 45, of Mexico, pleaded guilty today to conspiracy to commit wire fraud. According to his plea agreement, between January 2010 and January 21, 2016, Carranza-Sanchez posed as an undocumented‑immigrant smuggler who falsely promised undocumented immigrants and their U.S.‑resident relatives that that he would deliver the immigrants into the United States for a fee. Carranza-Sanchez directed the U.S. residents to wire the fee to various bank accounts in the Eastern District of California, which he and his co-conspirators ultimately collected.
According to court documents, in an effort to obtain payment, Carranza-Sanchez instructed the immigrants to go to a location in Mexico where his co-conspirators seized and detained them against their will. The co-conspirators telephoned the U.S. residents and told them that the immigrants would soon be delivered to the United States or that they had safely crossed the border, and instructed the U.S. residents to wire the payment. On multiple occasions, Carranza-Sanchez and his co-conspirators threatened to harm the immigrants unless the U.S. residents paid immediately.
According to the plea agreement, Carranza-Sanchez never intended to facilitate the undetected entry of these immigrants into the United States. In many instances, once the relatives wired the fee, Carranza-Sanchez instructed the immigrants to cross the border, and the immigrants were immediately apprehended by United States Border Patrol.
The investigation revealed that Carranza-Sanchez and his co-conspirators defrauded U.S. residents of approximately $95,000 as a result of their scheme. The plea agreement obligates him to repay that amount to the victims of his crimes.
This case is the product of an investigation by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI). Assistant United States Attorney Angela L. Scott is prosecuting the case.
Carranza-Sanchez is scheduled to be sentenced by U.S. District Judge Dale A. Drozd on February 6, 2017, at 10:00 a.m. Carranza-Sanchez faces a maximum statutory penalty of 20 years in prison. The actual sentence, however, will be determined at the discretion of the court after consideration of any applicable statutory factors and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which take into account a number of variables.