Missing 'shuttle' smugglers found guilty in federal court | Crime
A federal judge in Tucson has found two Arizona men guilty of conspiracy to bring, transport, and harbor illegal aliens, earlier this week.
Eusebio Arce-Padilla, of Rio Rico and Miguel Torres-Organiz, of Tucson, were tried before U.S. District Judge Cindy K. Jorgenson from July 10 -23. The court has issued warrants for their arrest, due to their lack of appearance in court. Both men are scheduled to appear before Judge Jorgenson in October for final sentencing.
The jury in this case failed to reach a verdict on a third defendant, Miguel Toralba-Mendia, of Tucson and a mistrial was declared. There is a status conference scheduled July 27 to determine a date for his retrial.
“This investigation and prosecution brought down a sophisticated human smuggling operation that was responsible for bringing thousands of illegal aliens into the country and funneling them through Tucson and Phoenix to destinations throughout the United States,” said U.S. Attorney John S. Leonardo. “I commend our federal, state, and local law enforcement partners, as well as our prosecution team, for their tremendous efforts in securing these convictions.”
“These convictions represent a significant victory in law enforcement’s efforts to dismantle illicit transnational human smuggling networks and the infrastructures that support them,” said Matt Allen, Special Agent in Charge of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in Arizona. “HSI’s Operation In Plain Sight investigation was successful in large part because of the tireless dedication of our special agents as well as extensive cooperation from our federal, state and local partners and Mexican federal police. Our collective efforts have resulted in the conviction or guilty pleas of more than 70 defendants, including the head of the alien smuggling organization itself.”
Evidence that was presented at the trial showed Arce-Padilla, also known as “Chevo,” as the alleged head of a Nogales, Arizona-based alien smuggling organization, responsible for moving thousands of illegal aliens into the United States over five years or longer.
This smuggling organization guided the illegal aliens around the Border Patrol checkpoint on I-19, just south of Green Valley. They then transported these same illegals in private vehicles to various shuttle businesses in Tucson and the surrounding area, who in turn drove them in marked ‘shuttle’ vans to Phoenix where they were dropped off in various parking lots.
While in Phoenix the illegals were again transported in private vehicles to ‘drop’ house where their money was collected for the crossing, and then they were taken to their ultimate destinations around the U.S. The fees collected from these people ranged from $1,700 to $2,000 for a trip from Nogales, Sonora to Phoenix.
This was the second trial connected to operation ‘In Plain Sight’, an investigation conducted by ICE/HSI agents. While ongoing this investigation led to indictments of 74 individuals in April 2010. The first trial conducted earlier this year, resulted in a guilty verdict for Ruperto Guillen-Cervantes and Betty Castillo, both from Tucson. In May this year both were sentenced to 37 months in federal prison. After this trial all but one of the remaining defendants entered guilty pleas, and charges were dismissed on a government notion.
Both Arce-Padilla and Torres-Organiz could face the following penalties – maximum 10 years in prison, a $250,000 fine or both, it will be up to the judge’s discretion to determine the final sentence.
The investigation was led by ICE/HSI agents with additional help from numerous federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies and cooperation from Mexico’s Secretaria Securidad Publica (SSP).
Anyone with information as to the fugitives’ whereabouts they are encouraged to contact the TIPS hotline at 1-866-347-2423