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Several Sentenced in Multi-Year Alien Smuggling Conspiracy

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – Six people have been sentenced for their involvement in a conspiracy to harbor and transport illegal aliens, United States Attorney Kenneth Magidson announced today along with Robert Rutt, special agent in charge of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI). The sentences were handed down today by Senior U.S. District Judge Janis Graham Jack. 

The leader of the conspiracy – Armando Olmedo-Trevino, 47, of Wharton, Texas – will be sentenced on Nov. 16, 2012. According to the factual basis in support of his guilty plea, he and others engaged in a conspiracy to harbor and transport illegal aliens from Aug. 9, 2002, until his arrest on Jan. 27, 2012. He began transporting aliens himself, then rose to be a leader in the conspiracy. He was caught transporting aliens on at least two occasions and thereafter became a leader, running the operation from his home in Wharton. 

Cristobal Ochoa, 48, of Falfurrias, Texas, oversaw the smuggling of illegal aliens across ranches the in Falfurrias area. For his role in the conspiracy, Judge Jack sentenced him today to 63 months imprisonment. 

With the exception of aliens smuggling across ranches by Ochoa, illegal aliens would be picked up in the Edinburg area and transported north through one of the Border Patrol Checkpoints in Falfurrias or Sarita. In most cases, no more than five illegal aliens would be transported hidden underneath blankets or luggage in between the seats of an SUV or minivan. However, in a few instances, illegal aliens were transported in other ways, such as in the trunk of a car. In June 2011, Olmedo and others modified a trailer with a false compartment intended to conceal up to 15 illegal aliens. 

Other co-conspirators sentenced today were Petronilo Sanchez-Jimenez, 42, Norma Leticia Silva-Garcia aka Norma Sanchez aka Norma Rocha, 38, and Sandro Alvarez-Maldonado, 35, all of Edinburg, Texas; Oscar Garza-Perales, 28, of Wharton; and Donna Simkins, 45, Tracy Howard, 47, Christian Russo, 39, both of Houston. 

Sanchez-Jimenez, responsible for getting illegal aliens across the border and harbored in stash houses located in the Rio Grande Valley until those aliens could be transported north, was sentenced to 87 months, while Silva-Garcia and Alvarez-Maldonado, who assisted Sanchez-Jimenez in harboring illegal aliens, received 67 and 51 months, respectively. Simkins, Howard and Russo began transporting aliens themselves but later became recruiters of drivers for the organization and, as a result, will now serve respective sentences of 80, 87 and 78 months in prison. Garza-Perales was also a recruiter and received a sentence of 71 months today. Sentencings for the remaining 23 co-conspirators identified in this investigation are scheduled for later this year.  

Over the course of the 10-year conspiracy, agents seized approximately 400 aliens being transported and estimate that the organization transported 40 aliens per month.   

Those charged in relation to this case were identified through a long-term investigation conducted by HSI. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Chad W. Cowan and Jeffrey D. Preston.

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