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Press Release

Fugitives arrested in deadly human smuggling and kidnapping for ransom scheme

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

HOUSTON – Two individuals are expected to appear in Houston federal court in relation to a smuggling event that turned fatal in March 2023, announced U.S. Attorney Alamdar S. Hamdani.

Lorie Lin Flowers, 25, and Santiago Hernandez Jr., 26, are expected to make their initial appearances before U.S. Magistrate Judge Dena Hanovice Palermo at 2 p.m.

The Houston residents had evaded law enforcement for over nine months until authorities recently apprehended them following their removal from Mexico back to the United States.

The charges allege that on March 17 and 18, 2023, a human smuggling operation resulted in the armed kidnapping of three migrants along I-10 East in Waller County. Three other victims were shot and left at the scene, according to the allegations. The alleged perpetrators held the victims hostage at two Houston area hotels and began requesting ransom money from their families. The charges allege the victims were beaten and threatened while held for ransom.

According to testimony presented in court, the kidnappers released two hostages after their families paid the ransom and law enforcement conducted an operation to rescue the remaining victim.

The scheme led to the death of one of the alleged perpetrators.

Brian Martinez, 24, and Christian Hernandez, 26, both of East Bernard, Miguel Gonzalez, 34, Richmond; and Houston residents Zachary Austin Palomo, 29, Alex Anthony Fisher, 27, and Brenda Roxana Serrano Figueroa, 25, were previously indicted and all but Miguel Gonzalez have remained in custody on various charges.

Santiago Hernandez, Flowers, Palomo, Figueroa and Fisher are charged with aiding and abetting kidnapping. If convicted, they face up to life in prison. For bringing in and harboring certain individuals, Gonzalez, Cristian Hernandez and Martinez could receive up to 10 years in federal prison upon conviction. All charged also carry a potential fine of $250,000.

The FBI conducted the investigation with the assistance of the sheriff’s offices in Harris and Waller Counties, Houston Police Department and the State Attorney General of the State of Michoacán as helping in the arrest of the fugitives. Assistant U.S. Attorney John M. Lewis 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.

Updated April 4, 2024

Human Smuggling