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Press Release

Two Brothers Plead Guilty to Human Smuggling, Hostage-Taking Charges

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

ALBUQUERQUE - Two brothers who operated a human smuggling stash house in Sunland Park, New Mexico, where migrants were held hostage pleaded guilty to federal charges.

On Jan. 18, 2023, U.S. Border Patrol agents apprehended two groups of undocumented noncitizens (UNCs) in El Paso, Texas, who stated they had escaped from a stash house in Sunland Park. Border Patrol agents were able to link the two groups to the same stash house in the “Old Anapra” neighborhood of Sunland Park. The UNCs reported being threatened at gunpoint and were told to pay additional smuggling fees.

After identifying the stash house, Border Patrol agents contacted Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) special agents, who  conducted surveillance, obtained a search warrant, and found seven migrants being held against their will on the property, including a woman and her 7-year-old child.

In his plea agreement, Saul Castorena, 41, admitted that between January 15 and January 18 of 2023, he intentionally detained individuals in order to compel their family to pay for their release. To that end, Saul possessed a shotgun, knowing that he had previous felony convictions.

In his plea agreement, Steven Castorena, 40, admitted that he conspired with and acted independently with others to transport and harbor migrants.

The Court ordered that Steven and Saul remain detained pending sentencing, which has not been scheduled.

At sentencing, Saul faces up to life in prison. Upon his release from prison, Saul will be subject to up to five years of supervised release.

At sentencing, Steven faces up to 10 years in prison. Upon his release from prison, Steven will be subject to up to three years of supervised release.

U.S. Attorney Alexander M.M. Uballez and Eric McLoughlin, Acting Special Agent in Charge of Homeland Security Investigations - El Paso, made the announcement today.

Homeland Security Investigations investigated this case with the assistance of U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Randy Castellano and Devon Aragon Martinez are prosecuting the case.

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Updated May 29, 2024

Human Trafficking
Press Release Number: 24-191