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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Southern District of Texas

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Head Of Alien Smuggling Organization Gets More Than 12 Years In Federal Prison

McALLEN, Texas – Jose Aguirre-Nunez, 46, the head of an extensive alien smuggling organization operating in and around Starr County to Harris County, Texas, has been sentenced to a total of 150 months in federal prison, United States Attorney Kenneth Magidson announced today. Another defendant, Higinio Barrientos-Perez, 43, who was a caretaker of the aliens while being held at a stash house in Roma, will be sentenced this Thursday.

Aguirre-Nunez pleaded guilty on March 22, 2007, to conspiracy to transport illegal aliens and conspiracy to commit money laundering and received respective sentences of 150 and 150 months to be served concurrently. Aguirre-Nunez, who is a permanent resident, is expected to face deportation upon completing their federal prison sentences.

Evidence proved that on June 30, 2005, Border Patrol (BP) agents discovered 26 aliens from Honduras and El Salvador at a house in Roma after one of them escaped and contacted law enforcement authorities. Agents arrested Barrientos-Perez after the aliens identified him as the person in charge of the stash house.

During the subsequent investigation, agents discovered that two days earlier BP agents found two Honduran aliens in the brush near Falfurrias. These Honduran aliens told agents that their guide left them and a female behind when the female could no longer continue walking and that the female alien died. The autopsy determined she had died of dehydration. The Honduran aliens stated they ran out of water while they walked in the brush looking for help and that in order to survive they had to drink their own urine. The investigation lead agents to the husband of the deceased female who told agents he contracted with Aguirre-Nunez to transport his wife from Honduras to Houston.

The evidence collected during the investigation revealed that the Aguirre-Nunez alien smuggling organization transported several hundred illegal aliens from Starr County to Harris County, Texas. Between 2001 to 2005, the organization received approximately $400,000 through Western Union and/or MoneyGram which represented the payment by family members for the smuggling of illegal aliens.    

Aguirre-Nunez headed the organization and was responsible for contacting the Mexican alien smugglers, arranged for foot guides to cross the aliens into the United States and deliver them to stash houses in Starr County. Aguirre-Nunez also coordinated the transportation of the aliens to Harris County by hiring drivers to transport the aliens, foot guides to walk the aliens around the checkpoint and scouts to check for law enforcement while the aliens were being transported in vehicles.

Aguirre-Nunez and nine members of his organization were indicted for their role in this alien smuggling organization. All have pleaded guilty and been sentenced. 

Marciano Andres Avellaneda, 29, was a foot guide that walked aliens around the border patrol checkpoint and Miguel Angel Alarcon-Candelario, was the foot guide that left the Honduran female behind in the brush who later died. Both, who are illegal aliens from Mexico, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to transport illegal aliens and were sentenced 54 and 105 months in prison, respectively.

Omar Wilfredo Guerrero-Sosa, 33, Rosalba Garcia-Perez, 38, also illegal aliens from Mexico, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to harbor illegal aliens and were sentenced to respective 44 and 80 month terms of imprisonment. Guerrero-Sosa was a guide that crossed the aliens into the United States and took them to the Roma stash house, while Garcia-Perez, was a scout for law enforcement as well as took over Aguirre-Nunez’s responsibilities when he was not in Starr County.

Lizzette Barrera-Moreno, a U.S. citizen from Harris County, and Myra Yesenia Villarreal, 31, Guadalupe Perez, 67, Soraya Barrera-Morales, 49, all of Starr County, Texas, all also pleaded guilty to conspiracy to harbor illegal aliens. Perez drove vehicles north of the Border Patrol checkpoint and left them by the side of the road for the aliens to use to travel to Harris County and was ordered to serve 78 months in prison. Villarreal was a scout for law enforcement, while Barrera-Morales took food to the aliens who were held at the stash house in Roma. Both Villarreal and Barrera-Morales also picked up money sent by the family of the illegal aliens through Western Union. They will serve 40 and 37 months in prison, respectively. Barrera-Moreno, who leased the stash house in Roma, was sentenced to three years probation. 

The investigation was conducted by Homeland Security Investigations and was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Anibal J. Alaniz.

Updated April 30, 2015