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Saturday, June 15, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Human Smuggling|Ring Rolled Up

VICTORIA, Texas (CN) - Five members of a human trafficking ring that smuggled Brazilians into the United States for decades were sentenced to federal prison.

The ringleader, Lorena Martinez, 37, of Portland, Texas was sentenced this week to 42 months in prison after pleading guilty to two counts of bringing in and harboring aliens in the United States, the U.S. Attorney's Office said in a statement.

Portland, Texas is just across Corpus Christi Bay from Corpus Christi.

"The result of this investigation has revealed a large-scale human smuggling organization based in Corpus Christi and Portland, Texas, which specialized in smuggling Brazilian nationals into the United States," prosecutors said in the statement. "This organization had operated with impunity for decades, transporting aliens illegally present in the United States."

The U.S. Attorney's office said the human cargo was "transported in the back of enclosed tractor trailers to Robstown, Texas, where they were unloaded and disseminated to points north. Over the course of the investigation, agents also uncovered approximately $500,000 in Western Union transactions between Martinez and other co-conspirators in relation to their illegal activities."

Five of Martinez's accomplices were also sentenced Tuesday after entering guilty pleas, prosecutors said. Sentenced to terms ranging from 2 years probation to 42 months in prison were former Portland, Texas firefighter Peter Jones, 30; Beatrice Rodriguez, 40, and April Stevens, 30, both of Corpus Christi; Pedro Vargas, 33, of Houston; and Mexican citizen Jesus Alcala-Mendoza, 31.

The ring also was ordered to forfeit two properties obtained from their conspiracy, prosecutors said.

Alejandro Hernandez, 53, of San Antonio, also pleaded guilty, and will be sentenced on May 14, prosecutors said.

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