'Coyotes' Sentenced For Holding 115 Illegal Immigrants For Ransom in Houston
(CNSNews.com)-- Three men unlawfully present in the U.S. have been ordered to federal prison after pleading guilty in April to holding115 illegal aliens they smuggled over the U.S. border for ransom in a “stash house” in Houston.
According to the criminal complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas by Homeland Security Special Agent Andres Garcia, Jr., the three conspirators locked the illegal immigrants' clothes, shoes, phones, and other possessions in a closet to prevent them from escaping the stash house while they demanded more money from their families. (See Complaint (1).pdf)
They also guarded the house using guns, paddles, and tasers, threatening to shoot those to tried to escape in the back of the head.
Jonathan Solorzano-Tavila, Jose Cesmas-Borja, and Eugenio Cesmas Borja were charged with conspiracy to harbor and transport illegal aliens and use of a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
They received sentences of 60, 54, and 51 months respectively for the conspiracy charge as well as consecutive 60-month sentences for the use of a firearm. Since they are illegal aliens, they are expected to face deportation upon their release from federal prison.
Two others, Jose Aviles-Villa and Antonio Barruquet-Hildeberta, were also arrested in a March 19th bust and charged with the same crimes. They also pleaded guilty and are expected to be sentenced on September 4. All five men are from Michoacan, Mexico.
According to the complaint, the Houston Police Department (HPD) received a call on March 19 from a woman named Esperanza Cuevas, who told investigators that she had paid the "coyotes" $15,000 to transport her daughter and her two children to Chicago.
Cuevas said that she then received a call from a smuggler in Houston who told her that he would “make her family disappear and make her family pay,” unless she paid him an additional $13,000.
HPD was able to trace the phone numbers of the victims and the suspect to a stash house on Almeda School Road in Houston where the five men were holding 115 illegal aliens, some of whom were children from Central America, against their will.
After smuggling the aliens into the U.S., the men would then hold them captive until their families paid the ransom they demanded, according to court documents.
When police arrived at the house, they found that most of the doors had deadbolt locks and most of the windows were covered with plywood.
Dilcia Jiminez-Alvarado, an immigrant being held captive in the house, told Homeland Security agents that she had paid $7,500 to be smuggled from El Salvador to New York. However, once she arrived in Houston, she was told that she would need to pay the coyotes an additional $5,000 in order to be released.
She also stated that she saw Barruquet-Hildeberta hit a pregnant female and others with a wooden paddle, according to the complaint.
Another immigrant, Mario Ernesto Guzman-Figueroa, stated that he was on his way to Atlanta in order to escape gang problems in his home country of Honduras. Upon his arrival at the stash house in Houston, he was told that he had 12 days to pay the smugglers $2,000, or he would be “beaten, placed in a black plastic bag, and then thrown on the side of the road.”
He also stated that he heard Barruquet-Hildeberta talk about wanting to rape one of the female captives.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office declined to comment when CNSNews.com asked if there has been an increase in human smuggling over the past year. They did state, however, that these kinds of cases were not new, and that they had been prosecuting similar cases for several years.