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Feds Bust Human-Smuggling Ring in Texas

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas (CN) - Thirty-one Texans were charged with conspiring to house and transport illegal aliens for nearly 10 years, federal prosecutors said.

"The indictment alleges the defendants engaged in a conspiracy to harbor illegal aliens in buildings and other places and to transport illegal aliens by means of a motor vehicle from Aug. 9, 2002, to Jan. 31, 2012," the U.S. Attorney's Office said in a statement.

Each suspect faces up to 10 years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine on the conspiracy charge.

A sealed indictment was returned Jan. 25 and partially unsealed upon the arrests of 12 of the suspects.

"On Feb. 22, 2012, the indictment was superseded and unsealed upon the arrest of an additional 19 defendants," prosecutors said in the statement.

Two houses and $83,000 were also seized as part of the investigation.

Five defendants have pleaded guilty to conspiracy and will be sentenced on May 3, prosecutors said.

They are Maria Herrera, 34; Norma Leticia Silva-Garcia aka Norma Sanchez aka Norma Rocha, 38; Petronilo Sanchez-Jimenez, 42, all of Edinburg; Donna Simkins, 45, of Houston; and Ricky Garibaldi, 46, of Wharton.

"The indictment remains sealed as to those charged but not yet in custody," prosecutors said.

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