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Press Release

Salvadoran national indicted after he was stopped on the Ohio Turnpike transporting people who were in the country illegally

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

A citizen of El Salvador was indicted in federal court after he was stopped on the Ohio Turnpike transporting people who were in the country illegally.

Melvin Enriquez Rios, 37, was indicted on seven counts of transportation of aliens not lawfully in the United States.

Rios was in a Toyota Sequoia with a Texas license plate that was stopped by an Ohio State Patrol trooper on July 15 in Wood County. 

None of the occupants of the van had any personal items with them and their cell phones were stored together inside a bag in the front glove compartment. The van’s windows were tinted. Only Rios spoke and only he had access to the cell phones, according to court documents.

Rios said upon further questioning that he was being paid to drive the people from Houston to Chicago and then a location in Maryland and would be paid for transporting them upon his return to Houston, according to court documents.

“People who enter the U.S. illegally and end up working in places like Ohio are trafficked through the same criminal networks that move illegal narcotics, firearms and cash,” said U.S. Attorney Justin Herdman. “We will work with our law enforcement partners to prosecute anyone who seeks to profit off of other people’s desperation.”

“This case is the direct result of numerous law enforcement agencies working together to stop and arrest those who deliberately try to exploit our immigration laws,” said U.S. Customs and Border Protection Acting Chief Patrol Agent Travis Darling. “I hope this indictment today serves as a stern warning to anyone who chooses to participate in this type of activity, which is not only illegal but sometimes involve crimes being committed against those being smuggled. ”

If convicted, the defendant’s sentence will be determined by the Court after reviewing factors unique to this case, including the defendant’s prior criminal record, if any, the defendant’s role in the offense and the characteristics of the violation. In all cases the sentence will not exceed the statutory maximum and in most cases it will be less than the maximum.

This case was investigated by U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the Ohio State Highway Patrol. It is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Melching.  

An indictment is only a charge and is not evidence of guilt. Defendants are entitled to a fair trial in which it will be the government’s burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.


Mike Tobin

Updated August 8, 2019

Human Smuggling