WASHINGTON, D.C. (WIAT) — The U.S. Department of Justice announced the results of a takedown of a prolific human smuggling operation based in Texas and across the southern United States Friday.
In a press release sent out by the DOJ, the operation was a part of Joint Task Force Alpha (JTFA) and included the arrests of eight alleged human smugglers whose indictments were unsealed today in the Southern District of Texas.
Erminia Serrano Piedra, also known as Irma and Boss Lady, 31, led the human smuggling operation. Other defendants include Kevin Daniel Nuber aka Captain, 41; Laura Nuber aka Barbie, 40; Lloyd Bexley, 51; Jeremy Dickens, 45; Katie Ann Garcia aka Guera, 39; Oliveria Piedra-Campuzana, 53; and Pedro Hairo Abrigo, 33.
All eight were arrested in Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama under charges previously filed in the Southern District of Texas and unsealed today.
According to the indictment, they facilitated the unlawful transportation and movement of migrants within the United States in deplorable conditions for profit. The migrants were allegedly citizens of Mexico, Guatemala and Colombia. The migrants themselves or their families allegedly paid members of the organization to help them travel illegally to and within the United States.
According to the indictment, the organization allegedly used drivers to pick up migrants near the U.S.-Mexico border and transport them further into the U.S. They allegedly often harbored the migrants at “stash houses” along the way in locations such as Laredo and Austin, TX.
The human smuggling organization allegedly used methods to transport migrants that placed their lives in danger. They were frequently held in contained spaces with little ventilation, no temperature control and in conditions that placed them at great risk. Drivers for the organization were allegedly paid as much as $2,500 for each migrant they unlawfully transported.
The indictment also notices the criminal forfeiture of three properties as well as money judgments amounting to $2,299,152.40.
Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Laredo, along with CBP’s U.S. Border Patrol Laredo Sector and DHS-OIG, led investigative efforts and received substantial assistance from multiple HSI offices across the U.S. southern border, including Mobile, Alabama.