Statement of United States Attorney Todd Gee Regarding the Arrests in East Mississippi of over 30 Persons for Drug Trafficking, Illegal Firearms Possession, and Other Crimes
Gulfport, Miss. – Kenneth Samuel Hernandez-Valdez a/k/a Kenneth Hernandez, 18, an illegal alien from Honduras, was sentenced today by U.S. District Judge Louis Guirola, Jr. to 27 months in federal prison followed by two years of supervised release, for conspiracy to transport illegal aliens within the United States, announced U.S. Attorney Mike Hurst, Special Agent in Charge Jere T. Miles of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigations in New Orleans, and Joseph A. Banco Jr., Acting Chief Patrol Agent of the U.S. Border Patrol’s New Orleans Sector.
As a result of this felony conviction, Hernandez-Valdez will face Department of Homeland Security removal proceedings upon the completion of his prison sentence. Hernandez-Valdez pled guilty on April 3, 2018, to conspiracy to transport illegal aliens with the United States.
On January 30, 2018, two Hancock County Sheriff’s Deputies, working together but in separate patrol vehicles, conducted traffic stops of two Honda Pilot Sport Utility Vehicles (SUVs) that were traveling together. Hernandez-Valdez was the driver of one of the SUVs and Ever Anibal Silva-Escobar was the driver of the other SUV. The U.S. Border Patrol was contacted and arrived on the scene shortly thereafter.
Neither of the drivers had a valid driver’s license, and both were found to be in the United States illegally. Each vehicle contained eight passengers who also were found to be illegal aliens. The SUVs each contained a total of nine occupants even though each vehicle only had seat belts for eight occupants. All eighteen occupants of both vehicles were arrested and transported to the Border Patrol Station in Gulfport.
On April 12, 2018, Silva-Escobar pled guilty to conspiracy to transport illegal aliens within the United States. He is scheduled to be sentenced on July 17, 2018.
Four of the passengers in the SUVs have pled guilty to unlawful re-entry by an alien after deportation or removal: Pedro Lopez-Alvarez, a/k/a Pedro Alvarez-Baten, 21, an illegal alien from Guatemala; Silvano Doroteo Morales-Ventura, 23, an illegal alien from Mexico; Wilmer Antonio Rubi-Padilla, 25, an illegal alien from Honduras, and Yesica Paola Rojas-Baten, 19, an illegal alien from Guatemala.
Lopez-Alvarez, Morales-Ventura and Rubi-Padilla are scheduled to be sentenced on July 3, 2018, and Rojas-Baten is scheduled to be sentenced on August 2, 2018. Each of the four aliens who unlawfully returned after removal faces a maximum penalty of two years in prison and a $250,000 fine. All of the defendants will be subject to Department of Homeland Security removal proceedings upon the completion of their sentences.
The case was investigated by Homeland Security Investigations, the U.S. Border Patrol, and the Hancock County Sheriff’s Department. Assistant United States Attorney Stan Harris was the prosecutor for the case.