Starr County: 4 sentenced for roles in illegally harboring over 100 immigrants
McALLEN, TX (STL.News) Four Starr County residents have been handed significant sentences following their respective convictions involving the harboring of 104 illegal aliens in harsh conditions, announced U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Patrick.
Juan Carlos Barrera, 28, Odilon Oyervides Jr., 22, Isaac Villarreal, 25, and Gustavo Alberto Alaniz Jr., 25, all of Roma, pleaded guilty in late 2019.
Today, U.S. District Judge Randy Crane ordered Oyervides to serve 108 months in prison. On Aug. 7, 2019, U.S. District Judge Marina Marmalejo sentenced Oyervides to 18 months in prison for his conviction of being a felon in possession of a firearm. Today’s sentence will run consecutively for a total 126 months in prison.
In December 2020, Barrera and Alaniz received 120-month sentences, while Villarreal was sentenced to 63 months. All the terms will each be immediately followed by three years of supervised release.
“If it were not for the efforts of the federal, state and local law enforcement agencies who worked on this case these dangerous criminals would have continued harming unsuspecting illegal aliens,” said Rio Grande Valley Sector Chief Patrol Agent Brian Hastings. “Criminal organizations exploit migrants throughout their journey and the abuse does not stop when they arrive in the U.S.”
“These men, who supported alien smuggling and alien harboring, placed their personal profit ahead of public safety and U.S. border security,” said Maria Michel-Manzo, Assistant Special Agent in Charge of Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI). “The resulting lengthy prison sentences should act as a warning to others who are involved in this dangerous trade of the severe consequences of their actions.”
During the sentencing hearings, U.S. District Judge Randy Crane noted their “egregious” conduct and ruled the men had threatening the aliens with stun guns and a firearm, physically mistreated them and failed to provide sufficient food and water. He also held them accountable for maintaining 104 aliens in an open-sided shed without a shower or toilet facilities in the middle of summer and placed the group at risk for serious bodily injury or death. They also had harbored multiple unaccompanied minors.
On Aug. 8, 2019, a man alerted authorities in rural Starr County. He identified himself as an illegal alien who escaped from a nearby ranch because property caretakers were mistreating him. He said others were being held against their will and requested assistance. Law enforcement responded to the location and were eventually able to locate all 104 illegal aliens.
All four men have been and will remain in custody pending transfer to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near future.
Border Patrol and Immigration and HSI conducted the investigation with assistance from the Texas Department of Public Safety, Starr County Sheriff’s Office and U.S. Marshals Service. Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert L. Guerra Jr. is prosecuting the case.