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Press Release

Alien Smuggling Ring Dismantled

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of Texas

BROWNSVILLE, Texas – With the sentencing of the final defendant today, 11 members of a smuggling group that operated throughout the Rio Grande Valley have all been ordered to federal prison, announced Acting U.S. Attorney Abe Martinez.


Manuela Cedillo-Hernandez, 59, of La Feria, was the leader and organizer of the ring. She and her husband - Javier Aranda Velez, 51 - harbored aliens who had entered the United States unlawfully and conspired to transport them farther north into the nation’s interior. Cedillo-Hernandez employed associates in the alien smuggling scheme including her own children.


The investigation into the Cedillo-Hernandez alien smuggling organization began in March 2016. By July 2016, the investigation had revealed an extensive operation including five properties across south Texas involving the smuggling of at least 39 aliens within a few short months.


Cedillo-Hernandez was previously sentenced to 37 months in federal prison. Her home was also seized by federal authorities. The others convicted in the scheme included Francisca Torres, 54, Landsie Rubi Leija, 28, Christopher Ray Vega, 31, and William Adam Leija, 26,all of La Feria; Raquel Flores-Cedillo, 37, and Rogelio Gonzalez, 41, both of Brownsville; Guadalupe Iracheta Obregon, 41,and Bobby Joe Canales, 38, both of Alton; and Jorge Vidales, 39, of Harlingen. The final defendant - Flores Cedillo - was sentenced today to 16 months in prison. The remaining defendants were previously sentenced to a variety of terms up to 37 months imprisonment.


Immigration and Custom's Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigations conducted the four-month investigation with assistance from Enforcement Removal Operations, U.S. Marshals Service, Border Patrol, the State Department’s Diplomatic Security Service, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Cameron County District Attorney’s Office, Cameron County Sheriff’s Office and police departments in Brownsville, Harlingen and Mission. Assistant U.S. Attorney Jason Corley and Assistant U.S. Attorney Vince Carroll prosecuted the case.

Updated August 31, 2017

Human Smuggling