The Villarreal brothers made between $700K to $1M for smuggling hundreds of illegal Mexican nationals and Brazilians into the U.S.
By H. Nelson Goodson
June 22, 2013
San Diego, CA - On Friday, U.S. District Court Judge John Houston sentenced former U.S. Border Patrol agents, Raúl Villarreal, 42, to 35 years in prison and was fined $250K and Fidel Villarreal, 44, to 30 years in prison, both of San Diego. They were convicted in 2012 for operating a lucrative human smuggling ring that brought hundreds of Mexicans and Brazilians illegally into the United States using official agency vehicles.
The federal prosecutor estimated at least 1,000 of illegal immigrants from Mexico and Brazil were smuggled into the U.S. In groups of ten at a cost of $10,000 for each group. Judge Houston lower the smuggling number to 500.
Both brothers made between $700K to $1M in the smuggling operation and taking bribes.
The investigation began in May 2005 when a woman tipped authorities that the Villarreal brothers charged her $12,000 to get her across border patrol check points in the U.S. The Villarreal discovered they were being investigated and quit their jobs in June 2006 and fled to Tijuana their birth place. In March 2009, they were extradited along with two othersl suspects from Tijuana, Mexico.
They were charged with human smuggling, witness tempering and bribery.
Two other suspects were also convicted in the case. Armando Garcia, 44, of Tijuana, Mexico, who acted as a foot guide for the ring, was found guilty by a jury on multiple felony counts of conspiracy to smuggle aliens, money laundering and receiving bribes. Claudia Gonzalez, 35, of Tijuana, pleaded guilty in December 2009 to conspiracy to smuggle aliens for financial gain, bribery and money laundering. Gonzalez is scheduled to be sentenced in September.
According to court documents, ICE special agents conducted extensive surveillance of the defendants' smuggling operations, using surveillance aircraft, GPS devices and video cameras mounted on poles along the California-Mexico border. The video showed Fidel Villarreal picking up groups of illegal aliens with his official Border Patrol vehicle and transporting them to designated staging locations to await their transportation into the interior.