HOUSTON — The final two men arrested in connection with the March 2014 discovery of more than 100 illegal aliens in a Houston-area stash house were ordered to federal prison Thursday. The sentences were announced by U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson, Southern District of Texas, and Brian Moskowitz, special agent in charge of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in Houston.
The investigation was conducted by HSI, with assistance from the Houston Police Department.
The following five men from Michoacan, Mexico, who pleaded guilty just one month after their March arrests,were convicted of conspiring to harbor and transport illegal aliens and using a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence:
Jose Aviles-Villa, 32;
Antonio Barruquet-Hildeberta, 46;
Jonathan Solorzano-Tavila, 30;
Jose Cesmas-Borja, 26; and
Eugenio Sesmas-Borja, 20.
"These men, who supported alien smuggling and alien harboring, placed their personal profit ahead of public safety and border security," said Moskowitz. "The resulting prison sentences should remind others involved in this dangerous trade of the severe consequences of their actions."
On Sept. 4, U.S. District Judge Lee Rosenthal sentenced Aviles-Villa and Barruquet-Hildeberta Â to 51 and 63 months respectively in federal prison for the conspiracy charge. Both men were also ordered to serve consecutive 60-month sentences for the use of a firearm, resulting in total sentences of 111 and 123 months.
Solorzano-Tavila, Sesmas-Borja and Cesmas-Borja were previously sentenced to 60, 54 and 51 months in federal prison, respectively, for the conspiracy charge. They also received consecutive 60-month sentences for the use of a firearm, resulting in total sentences ranging from 120 to 111 months in prison. As illegal aliens, they will be deported following their release from prison.
The five men were arrested March 19 after 115 illegal aliens were discovered in a stash house on Almeda School Road in Houston.
The convicted smugglers admitted they obtained substantial profits as a result of the conspiracy. They had established networks that brought the aliens into the U.S. illegally across the Southwest border. The illegal aliens were then held in stash houses while the smugglers arranged payment of remaining smuggling fees from their families.
While in the stash house, the conspirators seized the victim aliens' clothes, shoes, phones and other possessions. The conspirators used guns, paddles, tasers and other equipment to control and prevent the illegal aliens from escaping from the stash house. They guarded the aliens with guns displayed in plain view and threatened to kill them by shooting them in the back of the head if they tried to escape.
In one specific instance, the conspirators contacted the mother of one of the stashed aliens and told her to pay an additional $13,000 for the victim and her two children. She was advised that if she did not pay, they would "make her family disappear and make her family pay."
The defendants will all remain in federal custody pending transfer to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near future.
Assistant U.S. Attorney (AUSA) Julie Searle and Special AUSA Rick Bennett, Southern District of Texas, prosecuted the case.