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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Northern District of Alabama

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, February 9, 2017

Last of Four Illegal Aliens Involved in Home Invasion Plot Sentenced to Year in Prison

BIRMINGHAM – The last of four illegal aliens prosecuted in federal court for their roles in a March 2016 plot to invade a Calhoun County house, take a safe from it and deliver the residence’s occupants to a Dallas-based enforcer for drug organizations was sentenced today to one year and a day in prison, announced Acting U.S. Attorney Robert O. Posey, Homeland Security Investigations Special Agent in Charge Raymond R. Parmer Jr., and FBI Special Agent in Charge Roger Stanton.

 

U.S. District Judge R. David Proctor sentenced LUIS DIAZ-ZAVALA, 34, of Honduras, on one count of possessing a firearm by an alien illegally in the United States. Diaz-Zavala pleaded guilty to the charge in October. He is already in custody.

“Oxford Police and agents of ICE and the FBI are to be applauded for their cooperative work that prevented what could have been a violent home invasion at the behest of a drug-trafficker,” Posey said. “This office and our law enforcement partners continue our commitment to capture and prosecute people intent on violence who are in the country illegally.”

“Keeping our communities safe from violent criminals remains a priority for HSI,” Parmer said. “Together with our state and federal partners we will continue to target these criminal elements and ensure the safety of our citizens.”

"Thanks to the excellent work by the Oxford Police Department, a potentially deadly violent crime was thwarted,” Stanton said. “This case is an outstanding example of cooperation between local and federal partners, and I am proud of the work done by all involved on this investigation. Diaz Zavala deserves every day of this sentence.”

Diaz-Zavala is one of four men arrested in Oxford last March who have acknowledged they were hired by a putative security company to conduct the home raid in Alabama. Diaz-Zavala and his associates were provided gear for the job, which included firearms, according to his plea agreement with the government.

Diaz-Zavala’s associates, who all pleaded guilty last year to possessing firearms as aliens in the United States illegally, are CAMILO ANTONIO ESPINOZA-MEDRANO, 32, JOSUE LOPEZ-BENEGAS, 24, both of Honduras, and ENRIQUE ECHEVERRIA-BENITEZ, 28, of Mexico. All three men were sentenced last year to two years and three months in prison.

After completing their prison terms, all four men will be delivered to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to begin deportation proceedings.

According to Diaz-Zavala’s plea agreement and other court documents, Oxford Police stopped a vehicle carrying Espinoza-Medrano, Lopez-Benegas and Echeverra-Benitez on March 25 and recovered four pistols: a stolen Smith & Wesson SD9, a loaded Caspian Arms .45-caliber, a Smith & Wesson M&P 9mm, and a SIG Sauer SP2022 and loaded magazines. They also recovered a black Airsoft rifle, a tactical vest with attached Bowie knife and .45-caliber and 9mm ammunition in the pockets, handcuffs, a ski mask, rope and a machete.

Oxford Police stopped Diaz-Zavala in a separate vehicle on the same date and recovered a security guard badge, two shirts emblazoned with “FBI,” and a duty belt with handcuffs and a holster. Diaz-Zavala later told law enforcement officers that he had possessed one of the firearms recovered from the vehicle carrying his associates.

Lopez-Benegas told investigators after his arrest that a friend had called him in early March wanting him to travel to Alabama to do a “security job” that would pay him $60,000 once the job was completed, according to Lopez-Benegas’ arrest complaint. The job was supposedly arranged through a security company, owned by the friend's boss, who Lopez-Benegas knew as an enforcer and debt collector for drug organizations. The job involved taking a safe from occupants at an Alabama residence identified by GPS coordinates, and once the residence and safe were secured, Lopez-Benegas and his associates were to turn over the occupants to the boss, according to the arrest complaint.

ICE-HSI, the FBI and Oxford Police investigated the case, which Assistant U.S. Attorney Austin D. Shutt is prosecuting.

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Updated February 9, 2017