MCALLEN–Four people have been sentenced to federal prison for conspiracy to harbor undocumented immigrants, federal prosecutors announced.
U.S. District Judge Micaela Alvarez sentenced Brenda Abi Bazaldua-Mariscal, 29, Canuto Rodriguez Jr., 24, Genaro Gomez, 24, and Maria Del Carmen Martinez-Fraga, 33, to 60, 120, 120 and 97 months imprisonment. The sentences. Co-defendant Rosa Isela Bazaldua, 36, is set for sentencing next month. With the exception of Martinez-Fraga, who is herself an undocumented immigrant from Mexico, all are U.S. citizens residing in Mission.
“Targeting smugglers who prey on human beings is a top priority of ICE,” said Robinette. “Human smugglers have a callous disregard for the value of life. We will continue to aggressively pursue these types of alien smuggling cases, in which lives are jeopardized for personal profit.”
The investigation began last June 28 when ICE received a call from Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers regarding three deceased undocumented immigrants found in Duval County. At the location, federal agents determined the three deceased immigrants had been struck and killed by an oncoming vehicle at or around midnight.
Near the scene of the incident, seven other undocumented immigrants turned themselves in to agents and acknowledged the three deceased were part of their group – indicating one of them was their foot guide. A total of 15 undocumented immigrants were from Mexico, Honduras, El Salvador, the Dominican Republic and Nicaragua and were ultimately apprehended, some under the age of 16.
The illegals explained that they had been walking through the brush for about five days but had run out of food and water on the 4th day. Before his death, according to the illegal immigrantss, the deceased guide spoke to someone via cellular telephone and was informed that they could not be picked up as planned due to law enforcement presence in the area.
Sometime before midnight on the 28th, the guide informed them that someone was going to drop off food and water. The guide and two of the illegals emerged from the brush and proceeded to the dark roadway and were later observed alongside the road before they were struck by a pick-up truck.
Further investigation led to the identification of Bazaldua, Bazaldua-Mariscal and Rodriguez as members of the immigrant smuggling organization who harbored the illegals in Mission homes. As a result of an investigation, agents subsequently identified Gomez and Martinez-Fraga as members of the immigrant smuggling organization who arranged the harboring and transportation of the immigrants further North. Martinez-Fraga was also identified as the woman who took the three-year-old child of one of the illegals and was to arrange for her transportation North. The child was ultimately delivered to family members in Houston.
On July 6, agents arrested Bazaldua, Bazaldua-Mariscal and Rodriguez, at which time agents discovered an additional 15 undocumented immigrants hiding within the residence. Agents also discovered one Lorcin Model 19, 9mm handgun, seven rounds of Luger 9mm ammunition as well as seven cellular telephones within the residence. Several money wire transfer documents and a ledger which included the names of approximately 130 illegals that had been harbored at the residence.
Subsequently, Martinez-Fraga and Gomez were also arrested. At time of Martinez-Fraga’s arrest, agents discovered one illegal from Honduras hidden in a shed in the back of the property in addition to two cellular phones and several money wire transfer documents.
All five defendants pleaded guilty to conspiracy to harbor illegals on Sept. 28. Fraga also pleaded to harboring an illegal found at her home on Aug. 16.
They have all been in custody since their arrest where they will remain pending transfer to a Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near future.