Saturday, August 23, 2008

Texas Human Trafficking Convictions


By Ana Ley
August 21, 2008

HOUSTON — Five people linked to an immigrant smuggling operation run by the infamous Ortiz family pleaded guilty to trafficking charges on Thursday, prosecutors said.

U.S. Attorney Don DeGabrielle said in a news release that Porfirio Ortiz, 37, Calixtro Ortiz, 52, Bernardino Ortiz, 49, and Sandra Ortiz, 32, all relatives living in Bryan; and Christopher Gene Torres, 24, of Kingsland, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to transport undocumented immigrants for commercial advantage or private financial gain.

Lawyers for Porfirio Ortiz, Calixtro Ortiz and Sandra Ortiz did not respond to messages left by The Associated Press on Thursday. Bernardino Ortiz's lawyer declined to comment.

Torres' lawyer said his client is not as involved with the operation because he is only facing punishment for the transportation of two illegals in separate cases in 2004.

"My client is probably not looking at much time," said attorney Francisco Javier Montemayor, adding that Torres would probably serve a year or less under a plea bargain. "We're happy with the way things turned out."

The smugglers can each serve as many as 10 years in jail, face a maximum $250,000 fine and a term of supervised release of up to three years. Sentencing is set for Nov. 20.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement began investigating the group in January 2005 when Border Patrol agents found a group of illegal immigrants hiding behind a pile of hay inside a horse trailer as they crossed a checkpoint en route to Hebbronville.

The driver, 28-year-old Tyler Ross Severn, told agents Porfirio Ortiz hired him to drive the truck and trailer to Rio Grande City and loaded the five immigrants into the trailer. The immigrants were to pay Porfirio Ortiz $2,500 each, of which Severn was to receive $300 per person.

Severn told authorities he had made numerous trips transporting illegal immigrants for the Ortiz family. Calixtro Ortiz served as a guide for the immigrants and would deliver immigrants to Severn at a house in Rio Grande City, DeGabrielle said. Severn would then transport the immigrants to Bryan, where Porfirio or Bernardino Ortiz would pay him.

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1 comment:

  1. Anonymous2:08 AM

    I'm sorry if the age of this post renders my comment obsolete, but I have to ask; how is this a victory against human trafficking? I can find no indication in the article (and the full article is no longer available so forgive if this is incorrect) that this case falls under the U.S. definition of trafficking. Specifically, there is no mention of force, fraud, or coercion being used to victimize the immigrants.

    Instead, this looks like a case of human SMUGGLING, which, while also a crime, is an entirely different animal. The anti-trafficking movement already has enough problems keeping itself uninvolved in the high tense and politicized arena of illegal immigration, and a self professed anti-human trafficking website confusing the issue as well can do nothing but further aggravate the problem.