June 12th, 2007 10:20 EST
ICE arrests suspected key player in alien and drug smuggling network
EL PASO, Texas - U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Office of Investigations special agents Friday arrested a man believed to be one of masterminds of an area criminal network that has smuggled people and drug loads into the U.S. for at least the past five years.
Julian Juvenal Vera-Valencia, 30, was arrested Friday in his Tornillo, Texas, home. He made his initial appearance in federal court today and has been criminally charged with aiding and abetting illegal aliens to enter the U.S. for financial gain, conspiring to smuggle aliens, conspiring to possess a controlled substance with intent to distribute, possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance and importation of a controlled substance. Agents with U.S. Border Patrol, a division of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), participated in the investigation and arrest.
Vera-Valencia, a U.S. citizen, is being held in the El Paso County Detention Facility with no bond.
The Vera-Valencia organization has operated in the Tornillo area for at least the past five years, allegedly moving as many as 100 illegal aliens a day. Vera-Valencia has also been linked to four marijuana seizures since September 2004.
The smuggling organization was known to illegally smuggle people into the U.S. from various South and Central American countries, and at least in one instance, from Poland. The average smuggling fee was $2,100 per alien. The network smuggled men, women and children.
After smuggling the aliens in and around the Tornillo area, the Vera-Valencia group was known to move them to drop houses throughout the area, including El Paso. There the aliens would wait to be transported to various U.S. cities. According to court documents, the guides would provide little, if any, food and water to the aliens. In some instances, the smugglers allegedly charged aliens for food. One Tornillo drop house used by the Vera-Valencia smuggling organization had neither electricity nor running water.
Roberto G. Medina, special agent in charge of the ICE Office of Investigations in El Paso, said: "ICE will not tolerate criminal networks, such as this one, to use our border to profit from their illegal activity. Our special agents are committed to dismantling these smuggling organizations bringing their leaders to justice."