Five men convicted in alien harboring conspiracy
McALLEN, TS (STL.News) With the guilty plea of a 42-old Donna man, five individuals have now admitted to their roles in a conspiracy to harbor illegal aliens, announced Acting U.S. Attorney Jennifer B. Lowery.
Abel Cavazos pleaded guilty today, while Jesus Valdez, 21, Jonathan Romero, 19, and Darrell Palomares, 21, all of Donna, and Mexican national Rodrigo Acevedo, 21, admitted to their roles in the conspiracy earlier this year.
The investigation led authorities to a barn in Donna believed to be used to harbor illegal aliens. On Dec. 3, 2020, they arrived at the location and saw multiple individuals fleeing from the scene. Law enforcement was eventually able to apprehend Cavazos, Valdez, Romero, Palomares and Acevedo as well as 12 others determined to be illegally present in the United States.
Some claimed they had been physically assaulted and forced to call family members to demand payment for their release.
At their respective pleas, Cavazos, Valdez, Romero, Palomares and Acevedo admitted they knew the aliens had no legal status to remain in the United States, but still willfully joined in the harboring conspiracy.
U.S. District Judge Micaela Alvarez has set sentencing for April 15 for Valdez and Romero. Palomares and Acevedo will be sentenced April 22, while Cavazos is set for July 21. At their respective hearings, each faces up to 10 years in federal prison and a possible $250,000 maximum fine.
Valdez, Romero, Palomares and Cavazos were permitted to remain on bond pending those hearings, while Acevedo is currently in custody.
Homeland Security Investigations conducted the investigation with the assistance of Border Patrol, Texas Department of Public Safety and Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Office. Assistant U.S. Attorney Jongwoo Chung is prosecuting the case.