CORPUS CHRISTI–Eight people were sentenced to long prison terms Tuesday in what was a ten-year operation to smuggle undocumented immigrants through South Texas.
Court documents show the leader of the conspiracy was Armando Olmedo-Trevino, 47, of Wharton, who rose through the ranks and took part in the operation over the last decade..
He was caught transporting immigrants on at least two occasions and thereafter became a leader, running the operation from his home in Wharton.
Federal prosecutors report Cristobal Ochoa, 48, of Falfurrias oversaw the smuggling of illegals across ranches in Falfurrias.
For his role in the conspiracy, Judge jack sentenced him today to 63 months imprisonment.
With the exception of immigrants smuggling across ranches by Ochoa, illegals would be picked up in the Edinburg area and transported north through one of the Border Patrol Checkpoints in Falfurrias or Sarita, court documents said.
In most cases, no more than five illegals 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.
Olmedo and others modified a trailer with a false compartment intended to conceal up to 15 illegal aliens about two years ago.
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, all of Houston.
Sanchez-Jimenez, who was responsible for getting illegals across the border and harbored in stash houses located in the Rio Grande Valley until they could be transported north, was sentenced to 87 months,
Silva-Garcia and Alvarez-Maldonado, who assisted Sanchez-Jimenez in harboring immigrants, received 67 and 51 months, respectively.
Simkins, Howard and Russo began transporting illegals 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, who was also a recruiter and received a sentence of 71 months today.
Sentencing for the remaining 23 co-conspirators and Ovedo are scheduled for later this year.
Over the course of the 10-year conspiracy, agents seized approximately 400 undocumented immigrants being transported and estimate that the organization transported 40 people per month.