EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – Federal judges this week handed down sentences against a man who admitted to transporting unauthorized migrants to stash houses and a woman who conspired to harbor 13 foreign nationals.
The cases against Pablo Reyes Facio and Yesenia Contreras provide a glimpse into the migrant smuggling scene in a U.S.-Mexico enclave where border agents have apprehended 113,281 unauthorized foreign nationals so far in the fiscal year 2022.
Federal agents arrested Reyes last October after seeing him drop off five individuals with “wet and muddy” clothing at a house under surveillance on N.E. “H” Street in Fabens, Texas, according to a criminal complaint.
Agents stopped Reyes’ vehicle as he left the residence. The arresting agent recognized the defendant as a “known smuggler” who operates in the nearby border communities of Clint and Fort Hancock, federal documents state.
Reyes told the agents he was coming from Fabens and the vehicle belonged to his mother. Later, after being advised of his Miranda rights, Reyes stated he had just dropped “five illegal aliens at a safe house” kept by a man named “Juarez” and that another man named “Guayaba” instructed him to pick up an additional five migrants from Fort Hancock after he was done in Fabens.
Federal documents say Reyes told federal agents he had transported approximately 300 unauthorized migrants on 20 different occasions and that he got paid $400 for each.
The information allowed agents staking out the house in Fabens to knock on the door, detain Hector Juarez after he ran and hid in a shed, and eventually take eight migrants inside the residence into custody. A third man named John Michael Juarez was also detained. Hector Juarez stated that he was offered money to harbor the migrants but that he only accepted enough to buy beer; John Michael Juarez pointed to “Guayaba” as the one who paid for harboring migrants.
John Michael Juarez told agents one migrant had been staying at the stash house for weeks because his family couldn’t come up with the cash to “get out of El Paso,” federal documents show.
Reyes pleaded guilty in February to one count of transporting aliens and one count of conspiracy to harbor aliens, according to court documents. On Monday, he was sentenced to eight months in a federal prison for each count, to be served concurrently. A fine was waived “because of the defendant’s inability to pay,” records show.
Last August, Border Patrol agents in Santa Teresa, New Mexico, detained and interviewed a man suspected of migrant smuggling who advised them of a stash house across the state line.
Border agents in El Paso were deployed to an apartment on the 7000 block of Alameda Avenue, where they conducted a “knock and talk” operation, federal records show. A U.S. citizen later identified as Yesenia Contreras opened the door and the agents could see several people inside.
Records show Contreras gave the agents permission to enter and they encountered 13 citizens of Ecuador, Honduras and Guatemala inside. Contreras was read her Miranda rights and admitted to housing the migrants in her apartments, according to the federal complaint.
The defendant stated she had previously been arrested for “being the caretaker of a stash house” in Fabens and that she had been paid $800 a week, along with rent and utilities by a smuggler from Mexico. The defendant said she communicated with the smuggler through a Whatsapp application on her cellphone.
U.S. District Judge David C. Guaderrama on Monday gave Contreras a 12-month split sentence, with eight months to be served at a federal prison and four in home confinement. Contreras will also serve two years of supervised release and pay a $100 court assessment, records show. The judge waived a $5,000 Justice for Victims of Trafficking Crimes fee.