Two individuals involved in a smuggling operation that held illegal immigrants hostage were sentenced to more than a decade in prison, the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced Tuesday.
Carlos Villa-Miranda, 42, of Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, and Enrique Quiroz Jr., 50, of El Paso, Texas, forced illegal immigrants’ families to pay for the trafficking operation, according to the DOJ. Quiroz threatened to kill the illegal immigrants and pushed them to get their families to pay ransoms, while Villa-Miranda also made threats and at least once had a butcher-style knife.
Villa-Miranda was sentenced to 144 months in prison, while Quiroz Jr. was sentenced to 200 months, according to the DOJ.
“These human smuggling organizations are incredibly dangerous and prove that they value their pursuit of money and power through unlawful means far more than the lives of their trafficking victims,” U.S. Attorney Jaime Esparza of the Western District of Texas said in a statement Tuesday. “The agents with the Department of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) did an outstanding job tracking down these two criminals and putting a stop to their roles as human smugglers.”
There’s been a surge of illegal migration at the U.S.-Mexico border in recent years. U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) documented a record of more than 2.3 million migrant encounters at the southern border in fiscal year 2022 and more than 874,000 between October 2022 and January 2023.
The human trafficking element of the border crisis has proven to be a lucrative business worth more than $150 billion for criminal organizations and cartels worldwide, according to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
“These sentences show the grave consequences human smugglers face when they exploit people in such a ruthless way,” Special Agent in Charge Francisco B. Burrola of the HSI El Paso Division said in a Tuesday statement. “HSI is vehemently committed to using its ample authority to identify, investigate and arrest criminals who prey on the vulnerabilities of their human cargo with threats and acts of violence.”
Authorities took Villa-Miranda into custody after he fled from a highway Border Patrol checkpoint in Las Cruces, New Mexico and arrested Quiroz after searching his apartment, according to the DOJ.
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