An alleged alien smuggling enterprise has been disrupted in the Southern District of Illinois. A Guatemalan citizen has been indicted for allegedly smuggling 13 illegal aliens from Guatemala and Ecuador through southern Illinois, seven of whom have been charged with allegedly illegally reentering the country after deportation, Steven D. Weinhoeft, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Illinois, announced Thursday.
The case began on February 25, 2019, when a task force officer with the Drug Enforcement Administration made a traffic stop on an SUV travelling eastbound on Interstate 64 near New Baden, Illinois. During the traffic stop, the officer quickly saw that the vehicle was overloaded with numerous people crammed in the seats and on the floor. The driver of the vehicle, Domingo Tomas-Zacarias, 20, was discovered to be a citizen of Guatemala who was unlawfully present in the United States.
Federal agents from Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) responded to the scene, with assistance from local police officers from Lebanon and New Baden. The officers discovered a total of fourteen people, including six who were found hiding under a blanket in the back of the SUV. All fourteen men were taken into administrative ICE custody.
The driver, Tomas-Zacarias, has been charged with alien smuggling, which alleges that he knowingly transported illegal aliens for financial gain. He faces a maximum possible punishment of 10 years imprisonment, a $250,000 fine, and three years of supervised release.
Seven of the passengers in the vehicle had been previously arrested in the United States and deported. Those seven individuals are now also under federal indictment for allegedly illegally reentering the country after deportation, which is a federal crime punishable by up to two years imprisonment, a $250,000 fine, and one year of supervised release. They are Segundo Porfirio Ordonez-Japon, 34, of Ecuador, and Alejandro Mejia-Hernandez, 24, Silvestre Bopp-Mendoza, 30, Miguel Raymundo Velasco, 19, Rigoberto Heredia-Lopez, 30, Fidencio Quizar-Sharshente, 32, and Diego Brito-Bernal, 24 – all of Guatemala.
The remaining six passengers were determined to have illegally entered the United States through various locations in Arizona or Texas at various times. None of these six had been previously deported, and so they remain in administrative ICE custody pending deportation proceedings.
All eight charged defendants appeared in federal district court on March 13, 2019, for initial appearances following the filing of a criminal complaint against them. Now that they have been indicted, the eight are expected to be arraigned on the indictment on March 20, 2019, at which time a trial date will be set.