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Press Release

Ecuadorian Couple Sentenced to Federal Prison in Connection with an Alien Smuggling Conspiracy

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

In El Paso today, a federal judge sentenced an Ecuadorian couple to federal prison for their roles in an undocumented alien smuggling conspiracy announced United States Attorney Richard L. Durbin, Jr., and Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Special Agent in Charge Waldemar Rodriguez, El Paso Division.

United States District Judge Kathleen Cardone sentenced 40–year-old Paul Esteban Estrella Villota of Cuenca, Ecuador, and his 42-year-old wife Magaly Alemania Malagon Sandoya, to six years and five years in federal prison, respectively.  Judge Cardone also ordered both defendants to pay a $5,000 special assessment and be placed on supervised release for a period of three years following the completion of their prison terms.  Judge Cardone also ordered that Estrella pay a $2,500 fine.  Earlier this year, both defendants pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit alien smuggling for financial gain resulting in bodily injury.  Estrella and Malagon have remained in federal custody since being arrested in Orlando, FL, on August 12, 2015. 

The investigation into this smuggling organization began on November 4, 2013, after HSI El Paso special agents encountered two male juveniles in a suspected stash house. According to court documents, agents learned that Estrella and Malagon were the ring leaders of an alien smuggling organization that smuggled the juveniles into the United States.

The investigated revealed that on November 22, 2012, 25-year-old co-defendant Diana Marcial smuggled a two-year-old El Salvadoran child through the Bridge of the Americas (BOTA) Port of Entry (POE) as an identity imposter. Marcial used her own child's birth certificate to facilitate the smuggling. When that two-year-old’s mother, Wendy Heredia-Mejia, was herself arrested attempting to enter through the BOTA POE as an identity imposter, Heredia-Mejia identified Marcial as the individual who had crossed with her son.  Marcial was contacted by HSI agents and returned the two-year-old child to law enforcement agents.

As a result of the above, Diana Marcial was convicted of making a false statement to authorities about the legal status of the child she brought into the United States.  She was sentenced to one year probation and six months home confinement.

On November 6, 2013, 35-year-old Zandra Liduvina Llivichuzhca Murillo, the mother of one of the juveniles discovered by HSI El Paso agents two days prior, was arrested at Paso Del Norte (PDN) POE after she tried to enter the United States as a document imposter. The entry document she presented at the border was valid, but was in the name of another person.  Arnulfo Delgado Salas, a 46-year-old co-defendant, was the driver of the vehicle carrying Llivichuzhca into the United States at the PDN POE. Salas, who was later arrested, was scheduled to plead guilty in May 2016 to one count of making a false statement, but absconded prior to his re-arraignment hearing.  Salas is considered a fugitive.

Court records show that the man who arranged for Llivichuzhca and her child to be smuggled into the United States was a man she met in Ecuador. The man, whom she knew as “Paul,” charged her $15,000 each to smuggle her and her child. She paid him $6,000 up front. The woman positively identified Estrella as the man to whom she paid the smuggling fee.  On March 28, 2014, Llivichuzhca was sentenced to timed served (just over 5 months incarceration) after pleading guilty to one count of false impersonation in an immigration matter.

On November 16, 2014, United States Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) Office of Border Patrol (OBP) agents encountered another national of Ecuador near Mount Cristo Rey in Sunland Park, NM.  During an interview with HSI special agents, that individual identified Estrella and Malagon as the smugglers with whom he entered into a smuggling agreement to bring his daughter into the United States.  Court records show he agreed to pay them $14,000.

On March 16, 2014, Border Patrol agents arrested another national of Ecuador near Clint, TX, after she illegally entered into the United States.  Court records allege she told HSI special agents that a woman by the name of “Magi” arranged her smuggling travels from Ecuador to the United States, even though an Ecuadorian smuggler named “Paul” originally was to bring her to the United States.  Furthermore, the young girl’s father told HSI special agents on February 25, 2015, that he made arrangements to pay $14,500 to a smuggler he knew only as “Magi” to smuggle his daughter from Ecuador through Mexico into the United States.  While in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, the young lady was kept in stash house by Estrella and Malagon’s co-conspirators.  At that stash house, these co-conspirators repeatedly raped her before dropping her off in Mexico immediately south of Clint, TX.

Waldemar Rodriguez, special agent in charge of HSI El Paso, credited the team effort of other Department of Homeland Security (DHS) agencies locally and abroad that participated in the investigation.  “HSI will not relent against human smugglers who treat people like a mere commodity,” said Rodriguez. “This case should resonate loud and clear: HSI special agents and our law enforcement partners will work tirelessly to identify, arrest and prosecute those responsible for the illegal movement of people into and through our country.”

Assistant United States Attorney Ian Hanna prosecuted this case on behalf of the Government.

Updated September 6, 2016

Human Smuggling