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Justice News

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

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Carrizo Springs-Based Alien Smuggling Operation Ringleader Sentenced to Life in Federal Prison

In Del Rio today, 45–year-old Eduardo Rocha, Sr. (aka “Lalo”), was sentenced to life in federal prison for his leadership role in an undocumented alien smuggling ring operating in Carrizo Springs, TX, that tortured victims while waiting for ransom payments announced United States Attorney Richard L. Durbin, Jr., Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Special Agent in Charge Shane Folden and Dimmit County Sheriff Marion Boyd.

In addition to the prison term, United States District Judge Alia Moses ordered that Rocha pay $10,481.20 restitution to his victims and forfeit to the Government his real property located in Carrizo Springs where the crimes were committed.

“As this sentence makes clear, those who exploit people in this brutal way will themselves face serious consequences,” said Special Agent in Charge Shane Folden, HSI San Antonio.  “Alien smugglers view their clients as nothing more than a payday and they have no qualms about using threats and violence to collect their smuggling fees.”

On April 23, 2015, a federal jury convicted Rocha of two counts of conspiracy to commit hostage taking; conspiracy to transport illegal aliens involving serious bodily injury; conspiracy to transport illegal aliens involving serious bodily injury; and, three separate counts of harboring an illegal alien involving serious bodily injury.

Evidence presented during trial revealed that Rocha, Sr. operated his smuggling cell between Carrizo Springs and Piedras Negras, Mexico since at least 2013.  Rocha, Sr. claimed to be affiliated with Los Zetas, a trans-national Drug Trafficking Organization operating out of Mexico.  Members of Rocha, Sr.’s cell had used buildings located at Rocha’s Carrizo Springs property to hold the illegal aliens before transport further into the United States.  Witnesses testified that Rocha held the aliens against their will in an effort to extort more money from family members in the United States.

Evidence also revealed that Rocha ordered his accomplices to torture the illegal aliens being held captive in an effort to extort money.  A female was raped multiple times, and family members were made to listen over the telephone as aliens were tortured with a hammer, and threatened with decapitation and mutilation.  A family member in Virginia called 911, which prompted a rescue operation by Dimmit County Sherriff’s Deputies, Agents with Homeland Security Investigations, and U.S. Border Patrol on May 4, 2014.

Today, Judge Moses also sentenced two co-conspirators--34-year-old Atanacio Daniel Castro and 24–year-old Eduardo Rocha, Jr.—to 20 and 15 years in federal prison, respectively, for their roles in the criminal operation. 

Three other codefendants--40-year-old Christopher Jones, 34-year-old Tara Cournoyer, and 27–year-old Esmeralda Cruz--were sentenced last year to 66 months, 65 months and 71 months in federal prison, respectively, for their roles in the conspiracy to harbor undocumented aliens involving serious bodily injury.

This case was investigated by HSI agents out of Eagle Pass, TX, with the support of the Dimmit County Sheriff’s Office, U.S. Border Patrol, and the Texas Department of Public Safety criminal laboratory.  The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Matthew Watters and Patrick Burke.

Topic(s): 
Human Smuggling
Violent Crime
Component(s): 
Updated July 6, 2016