Leader And Others Ordered To Federal Prison In Alien Smuggling Conspiracy
HOUSTON - Francisco Chao-Martinez, 31, and five others have been ordered to prison for their roles in a conspiracy to transport or harbor aliens illegally present in the country, announced United States Attorney Kenneth Magidson. Mexican National Chao-Martinez pleaded guilty to conspiracy to transport aliens as did Juan Carlos Solis-Sanchez, 31, of Mexico, Daniel Sanchez-Cabarello, 31, of El Salvador, and Edgar Carranza-Espinal, 36, and Carlos Benegas-Benetiz, 36, both of Honduras. A sixth defendant, Fredis Sanchez-Martinez, 22, of Honduras, was convicted of conspiracy to harbor aliens illegal present in the United States
Late yesterday, U.S. District Judge Sim Lake, who accepted all the guilty pleas, handed Chao-Martinez a 57-month sentence. In handing down the sentence, Judge Lake found Chao-Martinez was the organizer and leader of the two-year conspiracy involving a conservative estimate of 500 undocumented aliens.
Solis-Sanchez was sentenced Tuesday of this week to a term of 27 months in prison, while Sanchez-Cabarello and Benegas-Benetiz received respective sentences of 18 and four months. Sanchez-Martinez was also sentenced Tuesday to a 12-month and one day term of imprisonment. Carranza-Espinal will be sentenced today at 3:00 p.m.
As illegal aliens, all are expected to face deportation proceedings following release from prison.
Charges in the case stem from an investigation that began in January 2013 after federal agents received information that Chao-Martinez was involved in organizing temporary housing for aliens smuggled to Houston. He then coordinated their transportation by means of motor vehicle to different locations throughout the United States.
In June 2013, Chao-Martinez, Solis-Sanchez and Sanchez-Caballero were arrested in connection with arranging the transportation of 14 aliens illegally present in the United States. Later, agents executed a search warrant at a residence in Houston which was being used by Chao-Martinez and his conspirators to stash aliens awaiting transportation. Agents encountered 10 additional aliens illegally present in the United States. Agents also encountered Sanchez-Martinez, Cararranza-Espinal and Benegas-Benetiz, all of whom were determined to be employees of Chao-Martinez involved in the alien smuggling conspiracy.
All will remain in custody pending transfer to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near future.
The investigation leading to the charges in this case was conducted by Homeland Security Investigations. Assistant United States Attorney Casey N. MacDonald is prosecuting the case.