HOUSTON, Texas – Three Mexican nationals received prison sentences and will face deportation for their role in holding more than thirty illegal immigrants in a stash house. The human smugglers were holding the immigrants until family members would pay ransoms they demanded before they would release the people they had already been paid to smuggle into the United States.
Jose Heriberto Lopez was sentenced to spend six years in prison. Jose Arenas-Lucero will face two years in prison, according to an Associated Press report. The third smuggler, Miguel Angel Medina-Ortiz will spend up to 18 months in prison. The three men pleaded guilty in 2014.
During the sentencing hearing, federal authorities referred to an incident in Oklahoma where a human smuggling victim died while being transported by Lopez, the AP article stated.
Lopez was allegedly involved in a human smuggling operation in Oklahoma where Jonathan Rene Martinez, 26, of Houston, was driving a car carrying 12 illegal immigrants who had paid at least $400 for a seat in the Suburban, according to a report in The Oklahoman. Martinez allegedly fell asleep while driving and ran off the road on IH-35 in northern Oklahoma. The Suburban rolled one-and-one-half times and ended up resting on its top. Martinez was wearing his seatbelt, but one of the illegal immigrants died in the crash.
Lopez was seriously injured in the crash but managed to escape from the Oklahoma hospital despite his injuries. Martinez’ attorney said that Lopez was the leader in that operation. “The guy that instigated all this and who is really responsible for all this is the one who disappeared out of the hospital in Oklahoma City. It was his vehicle or his people’s vehicle,” said Sarah Kennedy.
Human smuggling stash houses are not uncommon in the Houston area. Breitbart Texas reported last year about a house in Houston where smugglers held 115 illegal immigrants for ransom in a 1,300 square foot house.
Officials stated the three men convicted and sentenced in this case will be deported after completing their sentences. Authorities convicted five smugglers in that case. They each received sentences of approximately five years in prison.
A search of the Houston Chronicle archives reveals articles about stash houses in Houston going back as far as 2007.