Mexican national sentenced to prison for smuggling people into Phoenix area

Jun 13, 2023, 10:00 AM | Updated: Aug 18, 2023, 3:52 pm

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Is is customary in a courtroom for a preciding officer, such as a judge, to tap his or her gavel against a desk or lectern to indicate when proceedings have closed or opened. (Unsplash Photo)

(Unsplash Photo)

PHOENIX – A Mexican national was sentenced to prison last week for his role in smuggling thousands of people from the U.S.-Mexico border to metro Phoenix, authorities said Monday.

Manual Ochoa-Vasquez, 39, of Pasao Hondo, Mexico, was sentenced to 96 months in prison, followed by three years of supervised release, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Arizona announced.

Ochoa-Vasques pleaded guilty in December 2022 to conspiracy to transport illegal aliens for profit and conspiracy to commit money laundering.

Homeland Security Investigations agents conducted a yearlong court-approved wiretap after finding out people were being smuggled from the border to a mechanic’s shop and several homes in the Phoenix area.

During the execution of search warrants, 54 undocumented non-citizens were found in the primary stash house operated by Ochoa-Vasquez and his co-conspirators. The investigation found the people were detained until their smuggling fees were paid, according to prosecutors.

Authorities said wire communications also revealed Ochoa-Vasquez and his co-conspirators sometimes threatened the families or sponsors of the people being smuggled if the smuggling fees were late.

During searches of Ochoa-Vasquez’s and co-conspirator Carlos Barron-Arredondo’s residences, agents found guns, communication and over $1.4 million in cash. Ledgers were also recovered that documented the smuggling of more than 7,000 people and ways co-conspirators had laundered the money gained from the smuggling operations, according to prosecutors.

Barron-Arredondo received a sentence of 57 months in prison, followed by 36 months of supervised release. Thirteen other co-conspirators pleaded guilty to various offenses and were given sentences ranging from time served to 63 months in prison.

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Mexican national sentenced to prison for smuggling people into Phoenix area