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Justice News

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

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, April 23, 2015

Federal Jury in Del Rio Convicts Carrizo Springs-Based Alien Smuggling Operation Ringleader

In Del Rio today, a federal jury convicted 44–year-old Eduardo Rocha, Sr. (aka “Lalo”), for his leadership role in an undocumented alien smuggling ring operating in Carrizo Springs, TX, that tortured victims while waiting for ransom payments announced Acting United States Attorney Richard L. Durbin, Jr., Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Special Agent in Charge James Spero and Dimmit County Sheriff Marion Boyd.

As a result of today’s verdict, Rocha faces up to 20 years in prison each for conspiracy to transport illegal aliens involving serious bodily injury and conspiracy to transport illegal aliens involving serious bodily injury; up to 20 years in prison on each of three separate counts of harboring an illegal alien involving serious bodily injury; and, up to life in prison on each of two counts of conspiracy to commit hostage taking.  Sentencing is scheduled for October 14, 2015, at 2:00pm.

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.

Jurors also made a special finding in their verdict that the smuggling offenses each involved serious bodily injury.  They also found that Rocha’s Carrizo Springs property should be forfeited to the United States.

Co-conspirators Atanacio Daniel Castro, Eduardo Rocha, Jr., Christopher Jones, Tara Cournoyer, and Esmeralda Cruz remain in federal custody.  All have already pleaded guilty to federal conspiracy charges relating to their involvement in Rocha, Sr.’s smuggling operation and are awaiting sentencing.

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
Component(s): 
Updated December 7, 2015