Family sentenced in scheme to smuggle Chinese immigrants
It was a high-dollar human smuggling scheme that spanned the globe.
Immigrants from the Fujian Province of China were smuggled to Mexico and then to Rio Grande Valley and on to Houston.
Each immigrant paid tens of thousands of dollars all of it that lined the pockets of at least four smugglers from Harlingen.
It TMs not clear how much the group made during their five years of operation but an undercover operation by U.S. Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) agents shut them down in May 2012.
Three members of a Harlingen family have now been sent to federal prison for their roles in the scheme.
Court records show that Oscar Omar Gomez and his sisters ran a profitable human smuggling operation.
According to a plea agreement, Gomez and his sisters Irma Gomez and Iliana Elizabeth Gomez where the Rio Grande Valley connection in global human smuggling scheme.
Illegal immigrants from the Fujian Province in southern coastal China were taken to Mexico and then smuggled across the Rio Grande River.
Both Irma and Iliana Gomez admitted to operating stash houses in Harlingen where immigrants waited to go on to Houston.
Court records show that Oscar Gomez was living in Mexico to avoid an outstanding warrant but would direct the operations by telephone.
Federal court records show that HSI agents infiltrated the human smuggling organization back in 2011.
During one incident, a group of seven illegal immigrants from China were taken from the Valley to the parking lot of a Home Depot in Houston.
It TMs at that Home Depot where co-defendant Fernando Alejandre admitted to taking custody of the immigrants.
Alejandre admitted in a plea agreement that his job was make sure the Chinese immigrants would get to their final destinations in the East Coast.
Oscar Gomez allegedly once told the undercover HSI agent that he was looking for a way to use Central America and bypass Mexico in the scheme.
All four pleaded guilty to their roles in the scheme but Oscar, Iliana and Irma Gomez all appeared for sentencing before U.S. District Court Judge Hilda Tagle on Friday.
Judge Tagle sentenced Oscar Gomez to 3 years and five months in federal prison.
Irma Gomez was sentenced to 2 years and 7 months in federal prison while Iliana Elizabeth Gomez got 1 years and 10 months.
Alejandre was supposed to be sentenced on Friday but the hearing was postponed until June 26th.