Smugglers sentenced in human trafficking case involving abducted Salvadoran juveniles
Two Mexican nationals were sentenced for a years-long alien smuggling operation based in Phoenix, AZ, that specialized in harboring and transporting illegal immigrants from Central and South America.
The men, Guadalupe Toribio-Caballero, 25, and Humberto Guzman Caballero, 32 were the leaders of the organization, said Immigration and Customs Enforcment’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI). The two received 17 years in all for the scheme, said the agency. They began operations in 2008 and smuggled thousands of people into the U.S. in that time.
According to court documents, ICE HSI offices in Washington, D.C., and Phoenix, AZ began investigating Toribio-Caballero and Caballero in May, 2010, after the ICE HSI office in Washington D.C., received a phone call from the El Salvadorian Embassy concerning three juvenile aliens, ages 11, 13 and 15, who were being held hostage in Phoenix. The parents of the juveniles, who were living in the D.C.-area, had already paid $19,500 to the human smugglers, said the documents. The smugglers were extorting an additional $7,500 for the safe release of the children. ICE HSI special agents in Washington, D.C., working with ICE HSI agents in Phoenix, tracked the cell phone numbers used by the smugglers to several addresses in Phoenix.
The day after receiving the phone call from the Salvadoran embassy, ICE HSI agents in Phoenix rescued the three juvenile aliens, and with the help of the Phoenix Police Department, They also found 16 other hostages at the Phoenix "drop-house," including a 10-year-old female from Brazil, said the documents. The hostages were from Guatemala, the Dominican Republic, Honduras, El Salvador, and Brazil. They told law enforcement that they had been smuggled into the United States, and were being held against their will in the house until their families paid their smuggling fees.
All the hostages, including the juveniles, were held in the drop house where the defendants threatened, menaced and physically intimidated them, said the documents, to compel their family members to pay smuggling fees.
On May 20, 2010, a federal grand jury in Phoenix returned a three count indictment against the defendants, charging them with violations of conspiracy to commit hostage taking, hostage taking, and harboring illegal aliens for profit. On Dec. 29, 2010, the federal grand jury added an additional count of transporting illegal aliens for profit.