Double-Crossing Coyote Gets 8 Years in Prison

     McALLEN, Texas (CN) - A Mexican man who led a ring that captured undocumented immigrants as they crossed into the United States and held them for ransom was sentenced to eight years in federal prison.
     Pedro Rayon-Perez, 28, pleaded guilty to harboring illegal immigrants and returning to the United States after previous deportations to Mexico, the U.S. Attorney's Office said in a statement.
     His sentencing on July 1 shows the greed of migrant smugglers, or coyotes, knows no bounds. Migrant smugglers in Mexico and Central America are fueling the waves of unaccompanied children crossing into Texas by tricking their parents into believing they can obtain rights to stay in the country if they come to the United States.
     Rayon-Perez and his three cohorts sought out illegal immigrants crossing the Rio Grande River into Texas and captured them, federal prosecutors said.
     "Once they had exhausted the extortion payments from families, Rayon-Perez and his co-conspirators planned to abandon the aliens in public places south of the checkpoint," prosecutors said in the statement.
     Rayon-Perez and company captured five migrants as they crossed the river on Nov. 12, 2011, including a pregnant woman and her husband, court records show.
     "The 21-year-old woman was 8.5 months pregnant and had not seen her mother since her mother fled to the United States 20 years prior to financially support her family. The couple had intended to surprise her mother upon their arrival in the country ... Rayon-Perez successfully defrauded the pregnant woman's mother by stealing $4,800 - nearly all her savings," prosecutors said.
     Rayon-Perez then double-crossed his partners, Luis Aguilar-Hernandez and Roxanna Leal, took all the money and abandoned the migrants with them.
     "When Aguilar-Hernandez demanded additional payment from the mother, she sought law enforcement assistance," prosecutors said.
     San Juan, Texas police and U.S. marshals arrested Leal and Aguilar-Hernandez on Nov. 17, 2011 when they raided the stash house where they were holding the hostages.
     Leal, 26, and Aguilar-Hernandez, 47, also pleaded guilty to their roles in the scheme, as did 46-year-old Osiel Castillo.
     Leal was sentenced to 15 months in federal prison. Castillo received a 10-month federal prison sentence, in addition to three years in state prison. Aguilar-Hernandez will be sentenced in August.
     Rayon-Perez, Castillo and Aguilar-Hernandez will be deported after serving their time, prosecutors said.