[Fox News] Texas human trafficking ring accused of smuggling hundreds of migrants in squalid conditions faces new charges

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Alleged participants in a Texas human smuggling network accused of harboring hundreds of migrants in squalid conditions were hit with new money laundering charges Friday, as federal prosecutors claim compensation for trafficking illegal immigrants across the border was concealed as payments for phony construction jobs. 

New charges were filed against Erminia Serrano Piedra, 32, also known as Irma or “Boss Lady” and Oscar Angel Monroy Alcibar, 40, also known as Pelon, both of Elgin, Texas; Pedro Hairo Abrigo, 34, of Killeen, Texas; and Juan Diego Martinez-Rodriguez, 38, also known as Gavilan, of Dale, Texas. 

According to the superseding indictment handed down by a federal grand jury in the Southern District of Texas, the four defendants “conspired to engage in financial transactions designed to conceal the nature, location, source, ownership, and control of ill-gotten proceeds of illicit human smuggling and the unlawful harboring and transportation of undocumented aliens.” 

“Boss Lady” and the other three allegedly recruited and used straw persons to accept human smuggling proceeds in their bank accounts, and then transferred these proceeds to the leaders under the pretense of “work” payments for construction, the U.S. Department of Justice said in a press release. 

SENATE REPUBLICANS CITE ‘SOUND OF FREEDOM’ TO DEMAND HEARINGS ON HUMAN TRAFFICKING, BIDEN’S BORDER POLICIES

The leaders of the organization also allegedly used businesses and business accounts to transfer the human smuggling proceeds. They allegedly recruited individuals to accept human smuggling proceeds in the form of cash in exchange for checks from the recruited individuals’ business bank accounts. The superseding indictment also mentions criminal forfeiture of three properties with values currently estimated at approximately $2.275 million, $515,000, and $344,000, as well as money judgments amounting to at least $2,945,027.

Three of the four defendants previously were charged with human smuggling in an indictment filed in the Southern District of Texas and unsealed on Sept. 13, 2022. 

That indictment was the culmination of a significant enforcement operation that resulted in the arrests of 14 alleged human smugglers said to be members of an organization led by Piedra “that facilitated the unlawful transportation and movement of hundreds of migrants within the United States and harbored and concealed those migrants from law enforcement detection,” the Justice Department said. 

SUCCESS OF ‘SOUND OF FREEDOM’ PROVES THAT AUDIENCES ARE ‘HUNGRY’ FOR ENTERTAINMENT WITH VALUES, CRITIC SAYS 

The migrants were citizens of Mexico, Guatemala, and Colombia, and they or their families allegedly paid members of the human smuggling organization to help them travel unlawfully to and within the United States. According to the indictment, the organization used drivers to pick up migrants near the U.S.-Mexico border and transport them into the interior of the United States, often harboring them at “stash houses” along the way in locations such as Laredo and Austin, Texas. 

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Drivers for the human smuggling organization allegedly hid migrants in suitcases placed in pickup trucks and crammed migrants in the back of tractor-trailers, covered beds of pickup trucks, repurposed water tankers, and wooden crates strapped to flatbed trailers. These methods allegedly placed the migrants’ lives in danger because they were frequently held in confined spaces with little ventilation, which became overheated, and they were driven at high speeds with no vehicle safety devices.

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