11 Charged in Alien Transportation Conspiracy
BROWNSVILLE, Texas – Law enforcement officials have arrested 11 individuals alleging harboring and transporting of undocumented aliens within the country, announced U.S Attorney Kenneth Magidson.
Those arrested included Manuela Cedillo-Hernandez, 59, Javier Aranda-Velez, 50, William Adam Leija, 25, Landsie Rubi Leija, 28, Christopher Vega, 31, and her associate Francisca Torres, 53, all of La Feria. Also arrested were Raquel Flores-Cedillo, 37, and Rogelio Gonzalez, 41, both of Brownsville; Bobby Joe Canales, 28, and Guadalupe Iracheta Obregon, 31, both of Alton; and Jorge Vidales, 39, of Harlingen. They are expected to make their initial appearance before U.S. Magistrate Judge Ignacio Torteya this morning.
A nine-count indictment was returned under seal on Tuesday July 26, 2016, and unsealed upon their arrests yesterday.
The individuals are alleged to have operated a complex alien harboring scheme wherein they harbored smuggled undocumented aliens in exchange for monetary gain from the aliens or their families. Thereafter, the defendants allegedly provided the aliens with legal documents allowing them to assume an imposter identity and move northward from the Rio Grande Valley into the United States. The scheme is alleged to have taken place between March 2016 through the date of indictment.
All are charged with one count of conspiracy and at least one count of alien harboring. If convicted, they face up to 10 years in federal prison and a possible $250,000 fine for the conspiracy and a maximum of either five or 10 years for their respective underlying charges(s).
The indictment also includes a notice of forfeiture for two residential properties - one in La Feria, and one in Harlingen.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) - Homeland Security Investigations conducted the four-month investigation with assistance from DHS - Enforcement Removal Operations, U.S. Marshals Service, Border Patrol, Department of State, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Cameron County District Attorney’s Office, Cameron County Sheriff’s Office, police departments in Brownsville, Harlingen and Mission. Assistant U.S. Attorney Jason Corley is prosecuting the case.
An indictment is a formal accusation of criminal conduct, not evidence.
A defendant is presumed innocent unless convicted through due process of law.