ARIZONA NEWS

Leader of Phoenix human smuggling organization sentenced to 4 years in prison

Mar 9, 2024, 9:22 PM

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The woman is suspected of smuggling at least 100 people into the country, prosecutors said. (Pexels Photo)

(Pexels Photo)

PHOENIX — The leader of a Phoenix-based human smuggling organization was sentenced to four years in prison followed by three years of supervised release, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, District of Arizona.

Tony Cardenas, 36, pleaded guilty in November to conspiracy to transport and harbor illegal immigrants for profit and conspiracy to commit money laundering before he was sentenced last week.

Cardenas was first indicted in November 2021 along with 18 co-conspirators after an investigation was carried out by Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) — Sells and the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI).

HSI – Sells began its investigation in June 2018, and agents discovered undocumented noncitizens being moved from Central America and Mexico to the Tohono O’odham Nation, Native land covering southern Arizona and northern Mexico.

Migrants were transported to stash houses within the Tohono O’odham Nation or in the Phoenix and Tucson areas. The organization used Phoenix as a hub to hold noncitizens until final payment was received. After payments were made, noncitizens were driven across the country to their locations.

IRS-CI found numerous co-conspirators using bank accounts and money service businesses to direct over $1 million back to the smuggling organization based in Arizona.

Out of the 18 co-conspirators, 17 have already been convicted of human smuggling and/or money laundering while the 18th is scheduled to be sentenced on March 28.

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Leader of Phoenix human smuggling organization sentenced to 4 years in prison