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Justice News

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

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, September 29, 2016

Austin I.S.D. Maintenance Worker and Wife Sentenced to Federal Prison for Undocumented Alien Smuggling Scheme

In Austin this morning 54-year-old San Juana Valdez Menchaca and her husband, 57-year-old Julian Perez Perez, were sentenced to 70 months and 33 months in federal prison, respectively, for conspiring to smuggle more than 500 undocumented aliens into the United States announced United States Attorney Richard L. Durbin, Jr., Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Special Agent in Charge Shane Folden in San Antonio, and Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo.

In addition to the prison term, United States District Judge Sam Sparks ordered that the defendants pay a $1.173 million money judgment representing the total amount of criminal proceeds obtained in this case as well as $10,000 in fines ($5,000 for each defendant).  Judge Sparks also ordered that the defendants forfeit to the Government their Cedar Creek, TX, residence; approximately $106,390 in cash seized on the day of their arrest; and, approximately $71,000 located in ten bank accounts in an effort to satisfy the money judgment.  Judge Sparks also ordered that Valdez Menchaca pay a $2,709 assessment for the cost of her legal representation because she initially told the Court she was indigent.  The defendants will also be placed on supervised release for a period of three years after completing their prison terms. 

On July 7, 2016, the defendants pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to transport undocumented aliens.  By pleading guilty, the defendants admitted that for approximately ten years ending in April 2016, they conspired to smuggle and transport undocumented aliens for financial gain. According to court records, the aliens typically crossed into the United States near Laredo, TX, and were transported to the Austin area, before reaching final destinations in Alabama, Kentucky, Virginia, North Carolina, and Florida.

Court records also reflect that the defendants used the U.S. banking system to collect human smuggling fees.  Family members of smuggled aliens would go to geographically distant branches of a bank and deposit human smuggling payments directly into “funnel accounts” controlled by the defendants.  The defendants retained their portion of the smuggling fees and sent the remainder to co-conspirators in Mexico.

“Homeland Security Investigations special agents often investigate complex financial schemes in order to disrupt and dismantle the operations of transnational criminal organizations,” said Shane Folden, special agent in charge, HSI San Antonio. “These investigations deprive the criminal organizations from enjoying the benefits of the illicit proceeds, and prevent them from furthering the ongoing criminal enterprise. We will continue to aggressively investigate fraudulent financial schemes that put in jeopardy the integrity of our financial system.”

Both defendants were arrested on April 26, 2016. Valdez-Menchaca has remained in federal custody ever since. Perez is currently on bond pending notification of a reporting date by the U.S. Bureau of Prisons. 

This investigation was conducted by HSI agents and the Austin Police Department.  Assistant United States Attorneys Michael C. Galdo and Daniel M. Castillo prosecuted this case on behalf of the Government.

Topic(s): 
Human Smuggling
Component(s): 
Updated September 29, 2016