A maintenance employee for the Austin Independent School District and his wife were sentenced to prison for their roles in a human smuggling operation.
The couple conspired to bring over 500 illegal aliens into the U.S. over a 10-year period.
San Juana Valdez Menchaca and her husband, 57-year-old Julian Perez Perez, received sentences of 70 months and 33 months in federal prison, respectively, according to information obtained from the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Texas spokesman Daryl Fields.
The couple pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to transport the illegal aliens during a court hearing in July. They admitted to transporting more than 500 immigrants over a 10-year period beginning in April 2016. The couple would pick up the aliens after they crossed the border near Laredo, Texas. They would then transport them to a stash house in the Austin area. They would ultimately move them on to their final destination in other states including Alabama, Kentucky, Virginia, North Carolina and Florida.
Family members of the smuggled aliens deposited money into bank accounts that would be funneled to the couple. They would keep a portion of the proceeds and forward the balance to their partners in Mexico. As Breitbart Texas has previously reported, the Los Zetas drug cartel largely controls drug and human smuggling in the Laredo area.
“Homeland Security Investigations special agents often investigate complex financial schemes in order to disrupt and dismantle the operations of transnational criminal organizations,” Special Agent in Charge Shane Folden, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), San Antonio, said in a written statement. “These investigations deprive the criminal organizations from enjoying the benefits of the illicit proceeds, and prevent them from furthering the ongoing criminal enterprise. We will continue to aggressively investigate fraudulent financial schemes that put in jeopardy the integrity of our financial system.”
In addition to the prison sentences, the federal government has seized their residence in Cedar Creek, Texas and $106,390 in cash on the day the couple was arrested. An additional $71,000 was found from 10 other bank accounts and will be applied to a $1,173,000 judgement levied against the couple. They were fined $5,000 each. Valdez Menchaca initially filed for public representation as an indigent. The judge ruled she had the assets to fund her own defense and ordered her to pay a $2,709 assessment to reimburse the government for the cost of her defense.
The couple was arrested on April, 2016, following an investigation by HSI agents and the Austin Police Department.