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Press Release

Leader and others sent to federal prison for operating Houston stash house

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

HOUSTON – A total of five people, all illegally residing in Houston, have been sentenced in connection with the April 2021 discovery of nearly 100 undocumented aliens in a suburban Houston residence, announced U.S. Attorney Alamdar S. Hamdani. 

The leader in the conspiracy - Henry Licona-Larios, 34, Copan, Honduras - pleaded guilty May 24, 2022.

Today, U.S. District Judge Keith Ellison ordered him to serve 41 months in federal prison. Not a U.S. citizen, he is expected to face removal proceedings following his imprisonment.

At the hearing, the court heard additional evidence that detailed the inhumane conditions to which these undocumented aliens were subjected and that Licona-Larios was connected to an additional stash house discovered in December 2020. In handing down the sentence, the court noted the seriousness of the offense and Licona-Larios’s verbal and physical mistreatment of the undocumented aliens.

Four others had also pleaded guilty for their respective roles and were previously sentenced. Those included Marina Garcia-Diaz, 24, San Miguel, El Salvador, who received 27 months as well as Marcelo Garcia-Palacios, 23, Oaxaca, Mexico; Kevin Licona-Lopez, 27, Santa Barbara, Honduras; and Marco Baca-Perez, 22, Michoacan, Mexico, all of whom were ordered to serve 30 months. All are also expected to face removal proceedings.

“You cannot trust a human smuggler. Giving them money will put your life in danger,” said Hamdani. “These five people preyed on the desperation of foreign nationals hoping to get into the country. This sentence makes it clear - we will not allow the victimization of people for profit.”

The investigation began April 30, 2021, when authorities learned of a kidnapping. A woman reported that she had paid several thousand dollars for her brother to be smuggled into the country. 

However, the smugglers demanded more money before they would release him. They also threatened to harm him if the money was not paid.

The investigation led to a residence on Chessington Drive in Southwest Houston. There, authorities ultimately found 97 illegal aliens held in two rooms of the residence. The rooms had deadbolts on the doors facing the outside which prevented escape. All of the male individuals were in their undergarments. One was told if the money was not paid, he would be put in “4 pieces of wood.” 

All five have been and will remain in custody.

Homeland Security Investigations conducted the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Karen M. Lansden prosecuted the case.    

Updated May 2, 2023

Human Smuggling