Houston, Texas (KETK) — The leader of a human smuggling organization and five others were sentenced to federal prison Friday for their roles in a conspiracy to transport or harbor aliens illegally present in the country, announced U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson.
This investigation was conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).
The following five foreign-national men had pleaded guilty to conspiracy to transport aliens: Francisco Chao-Martinez, 31, and, Juan Carlos Solis-Sanchez, 31, both from Mexico; Daniel Sanchez-Cabarello, 31, from El Salvador; and Edgar Carranza-Espinal, 36, and Carlos Benegas-Benetiz, 36, both from Honduras. A sixth defendant, Fredis Sanchez-Martinez, 22, from Honduras, was convicted of conspiracy to harbor aliens illegally present in the United States.
On October 25, U.S. District Judge Sim Lake, accepted all the guilty pleas; he sentenced Chao-Martinez to 57 months in prison. In handing down the sentence, Judge Lake found Chao-Martinez was the organizer and leader of the two-year conspiracy for smuggling at least 500 illegal aliens.
Solis-Sanchez was sentenced Tuesday to 27 months in prison; Sanchez-Cabarello and Benegas-Benetiz received respective sentences of 18 months and four months; Sanchez-Martinez was sentenced to 12 months and a day; and Carranza-Espinal was sentenced to 12 months in prison. All will be deported after they complete their prison sentences.
"Those who support human smuggling place personal profit ahead of public safety and border security," said Brian M. Moskowitz, special agent in charge of HSI Houston. "The results of this case reflect our commitment to deter those who make these crimes possible."
Charges in this case stem from an investigation that began in January after federal agents received information that Chao-Martinez was involved in organizing temporary housing for aliens smuggled to Houston. Chao-Martinez then coordinated their transportation to different locations throughout the United States.
In June 2013, Chao-Martinez, Solis-Sanchez and Sanchez-Caballero were arrested in connection with arranging the transportation of 14 aliens illegally present in the United States. Later, agents executed a search warrant at a residence in Houston which was being used by Chao-Martinez and his conspirators to stash aliens awaiting transportation. Agents encountered 10 additional aliens illegally present in the United States. Agents also encountered Sanchez-Martinez, Cararranza-Espinal and Benegas-Benetiz, all of whom were determined to be employees of Chao-Martinez involved in the alien smuggling conspiracy.
All will remain in custody pending transfer to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near future.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Casey N. MacDonald, Southern District of Texas, prosecuted this case.