AP NEWS

Judge hands down heavy sentence for Mission men in smuggling case

September 7, 2017 GMT

McALLEN — A group of men from Mission will spend significant time in prison after a judge handed down their sentences in connection with a hostage-taking ring.

U.S. District Judge Micaela Alvarez handed down sentences for the seven defendants in the case on Tuesday. They are: Luis Aguilar Jr., 19; his father Luis Aguilar, 64; brothers Alhan Sanchez-Garcia, 20, Aaron Sanchez-Garcia, 21, and Ricardo Renteria, 26; as well as his nephew, Ricardo Renteria-Rivera, 23.

Most hail from Mission as Renteria-Rivera is a Mexican national who was in the country without legal status, according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Alvarez handed down a more than 29-year sentence for Aguilar Jr., a more than eight-year sentence for his father, 27 years and more than 16 years respectively for the Sanchez-Garcia brothers, and more than 24 and 25 years respectively for uncle and nephew Renteria and Renteria-Rivera. This, according to court records, for their roles in a human smuggling ring.

The 64-year-old Aguilar and another man, Jose Luis Rodriguez-Melchor, 30, each pleaded guilty to being in the country illegally after being deported before and harboring undocumented migrants. Aguilar, Rodriguez-Melchor, and Renteria-Rivera are expected to face deportation following completion of their prison terms, the release states.

The arrests of the men came last May, when a home invasion crew, that included an armed Aguilar Jr., crashed a stash house, pointed a gun at the head of the house’s caretaker and demanded that the migrants being housed there leave with the crew.

The undocumented migrants, who had their personal belongings confiscated, were then moved to different locations. Some went to Aguilar Jr.’s residence that he shared with his father.

While at Aguilar Jr.’s residence, the migrants were told they had to make new arrangements with him.

“Aguilar Jr. held them at gunpoint and demanded the undocumented immigrants give him the names and phone numbers of family members, whom he then called to demand $2,000 for their release,” the release states.

Once he received money from the migrants, Aguilar Jr. transferred them over to Rodriguez-Melchor to arrange the transport of the migrants further north.

According to the complaint Rodriguez-Melchor sold the migrants to Renteria-Rivera for $200 each.

Family members were called again and threatened to send more money to secure the release of their loved ones.

The Renterias used weapons and threatened to shoot the undocumented immigrants if anyone tried to escape, according to the release. Renteria helped pick up the money and then took the undocumented immigrants to a parking lot in McAllen, where they were supposed to sneak into the air dams of tractor-trailers, the release states.

Instead of getting into the tractor-trailers, the migrants surrendered to U.S. Border Patrol agents.

After speaking with the undocumented migrants, authorities served warrants at the Aguilar, Sanchez-Garcia and Renteria residences, where they found firearms.

They were subsequently arrested on smuggling and hostage-taking charges, the release states.

lzazueta@themonitor.com