HOUSTON (KHOU) – Five men arrested in connection with the discovery of more than 100 undocumented immigrants in a stash house all plead guilty Wednesday to conspiracy to harbor and transport illegal aliens.
The men, women and children were held against their will by smugglers or coyotes. They were found on March 19, 2014, living in deplorable conditions in a stash house, located in the 14700 block of Almeda School Road.
Jose Aviles-Villa, 34, Jonathan Solorzano-Tavila, 28, Antonio Barruquet-Hildeberta, 40, Jose Cesmas-Borja, 22, and Eugenio Sesmas-Borja, 20, all from Michoacan, Mexico, also plead guilty to the use of a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence.
The convicted smugglers admitted they obtained substantial profits as a result of the conspiracy. They had established networks who brought the undocumented immigrants into the U.S. illegally across the Southwest border.
The undocumented immigrants were then held in stash houses while the smugglers arranged payment of remaining smuggling fees from their families.
While in the stash house, the conspirators seized the victims' clothes, shoes, phones and other possessions. The conspirators used guns, paddles, tasers and other equipment to control and prevent them from escaping from the stash house.
They guarded the victims with guns displayed in plain view and threatened to kill them by shooting them in the back of the head if they tried to escape.
In one specific instance, the conspirators contacted the mother of one of the victims and told her to pay an additional $13,000 for the victim and her two children. She was advised that if she did not pay, they would "make her family disappear and make her family pay."
Sentencing has been set for July 30, 2014. They each face up to 10 years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine for the conspiracy conviction as well as a mandatory minimum of five years for using a firearm which must be served consecutively to any other prison term imposed.
They will all remain in custody pending that hearing.