Jury Convicts Local Man of Hostage Taking of Two Honduran Nationals
McALLEN, Texas – A federal jury has convicted a Pharr man of hostage taking and harboring aliens, announced Acting U.S. Attorney Abe Martinez.
The jury deliberated for less than 45 minutes before convicting Jesus Manuel Ramirez, 32.
During trial, the jury heard from several witnesses including the two victims who testified that on May 4, 2014, Ramirez and several co-conspirators began threatening and beating them because their families had not paid their smuggling fees. According to their testimony, on that day, one of the co-conspirators made several phone calls to their family members and conveyed that if they did not pay a sum of money, they were going to beat or kill both men.
Additionally, when the families failed to pay the money, Ramirez became upset and ordered a co-conspirator to restrain them. Both men were tied up and beaten. A family member recorded one of the beatings over the phone which the jury saw at trial. Both men testified that a co-conspirator continued to beat them and attempted to sodomize one of the men. Eventually, one escaped and was able to contact his brother who was being assisted by agents from Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in Long Island, New York.
An HSI agent also provided testimony and told the jury he had rescued one of the Honduran men who led them to the apartment where he had been held against his will. Agents searched the apartment and encountered the second Honduran national, dressed only in boxers. Alfredo Jaime Balli, 26, Jose Angel Mayorga, 21, and Gustavo Hernandez-Castro, 29, were arrested at the apartment. Ramirez was arrested in August 2016 when crossing into the United States from Mexico.
U.S. District Judge Randy Crane, who presided over the trial, has set sentencing for July 3, 2017. Ramirez faces up to life in federal prison for the hostage taking conviction and up to 10 years for harboring illegal aliens. Both convictions also carry a possible penalty of $250,000. Ramirez has been in custody without bond since his arrest and will remain in custody pending sentencing.
Balli, Mayorga and Hernandez pleaded guilty and have been sentenced to 216, 240 and 120 months, respectively.
HSI in McAllen and Long Island, New York, conducted the investigation with the Pharr Police Department. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Leo J. Leo III and Linda Requénez are prosecuting the case.