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Soldier Convicted of Smuggling Humans



A US Army Soldier, has been found guilty of smuggling illegal aliens into the United States by a federal jury in El Paso Texas.


Alejandro Javier Lazos Ortiz, 32, a soldier assigned to Fort Bliss in El Paso and three other members of an alien smuggling organization, were arrested by members of the  Border Enforcement Security Task Force (BEST) in October 2006 for conspiring to smuggle 12 illegal aliens from Mexico.


El Paso's BEST team is comprised of agents from  ICE, U.S. Customs and Border Protection's Border Patrol; the El Paso County Sheriff's Department; and the U.S. Attorney's Office, Western District of Texas.


Last March, a federal jury convicted Ortiz of one count each of conspiracy to harbor aliens, harboring illegal aliens, and inducing/encouraging illegal aliens to reside in the United States, all for profit. Ortiz is currently free on bond but could be spend the next 10 years in federal prison. U.S. District Judge David Briones is scheduled to determine the penalty on June 11.


According to testimony presented during the two-day trial, Ortiz participated in an alien smuggling operation that was responsible for smuggling more than 100 illegal aliens from Hidalgo, Mexico, into the United States. The human smuggling organization charged illegal aliens smuggling fees ranging from $1,500 to $2,500 to be crossed into the country and taken to various U.S. cities.


The organization would first walk the undocumented aliens across the Rio Grande where they were housed in several drop houses in the El Paso area. Later, members of the smuggling ring loaded the illegal border crossers into train boxcars bound for Tucson. Once in Tucson, they were driven to Phoenix, then to Las Vegas. From there, many of the illegal aliens traveled to Atlanta.


"It was clear to our investigators, and the jury agreed, that Ortiz and his organization traded their human dignity for profit and greed," said Roberto G. Medina, special agent in charge of the ICE Office of Investigations in El Paso. "ICE will continue to aggressively target unscrupulous smugglers, who have little regard for the health, well-being and dignity of their human cargo."


Evidence presented during trial showed that Ortiz rented stash houses, provided vehicles for transporting the aliens and collected smuggling fees. Western Union transaction records showed that between April 2005 and November 2006, Ortiz collected more than $36,000 from 40 different individuals in Mexico and 15 states, including: New York, California, Florida, Nevada, Maryland, Georgia, Colorado and Texas.


The three men arrested with Ortiz in October have since pleaded. More than 15 defendants have been convicted for their roles in this alien smuggling organization.


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