Thursday, October 18, 2012

Guatemalan Nationals Convicted for Human Smuggling and Hostage-Taking

Two Guatemalan men accused of multiple human smuggling and hostage-taking charges were convicted Thursday, October 11, 2012, by a federal jury, following an investigation led by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

Domingo Agustin-Simon, 31, and Leonardo Rabanales-Casia, 30, were both convicted of conspiracy to commit hostage taking, hostage taking, bringing in illegal aliens for profit, and harboring illegal aliens for profit. Both defendants remain in federal custody pending a sentencing hearing scheduled for Jan. 14, 2013. The men face maximum penalties of life in prison, $250,000 fine, or both.

Evidence presented at trial showed the defendants were part of an alien smuggling ring that smuggled aliens into the U.S. to a drop house in Mesa. In August 2011, HSI special agents responded to the drop house and found more than 40 illegal aliens being held inside.

Trial testimony revealed the smugglers used a shotgun to keep order in the house and threatened the aliens with physical harm and death in an effort to extort monetary payments from the aliens’ families. One hostage was beaten by the smugglers and women in the drop house were sexually assaulted.

HSI was assisted in the investigation by the Arizona Department of Public Safety and the Phoenix Police Department. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Christine D. Keller and Sean K. Lokey of the U.S. Attorney's Office, District of Arizona.

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