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South Texas human smuggling ring busted

By Judith Pannebaker BCC Editor

Last week, federal, state and local law enforcement officers joined forces to arrest 23 individuals who had previously been the subjects of sealed indictments for their alleged roles in a human smuggling ring.
During Operation Project 83, law enforcement authorities conducted a wide-ranging sweep, rounding up individuals who were operating a suspected undocumented alien smuggling scheme in Eagle Pass, Crystal City, Carrizo Springs, Uvalde, San Antonio, Dallas and surrounding areas in Texas. Additionally, two other individuals were also arrested on related federal drug charges.
United States Attorney Richard L. Durbin Jr. of the Western District of Texas, and Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Special Agent in Charge James C. Spero, San Antonio Division, announced the arrests and indictments on Thursday, July 30.
Two weeks ago, federal grand juries convened in Del Rio had returned the indictments, charging all but two of the defendants with conspiracy to commit alien smuggling. The indictments allege that from January 2014 to October 2014, ringleader Jaime Jaramilio-Hernandez, 49, of San Antonio, and others were involved in related conspiracies to smuggle, transport and harbor hundreds of undocumented aliens from Laredo to San Antonio and Dallas.
Additionally, defendants Omar Carrillo and Edward Mello were charged with one count of conspiracy to possess "with intent to distribute" cocaine and one "substantive" count of possession with intent to distribute cocaine.
According to the indictment, between January 2014 and September 2014, Carrillo and Mello conspired to distribute more than 500 grams of cocaine. If convicted of the drug charges, the pair faces between five and 40 years in federal prison.
If convicted of human trafficking, the other defendants can be sentenced to as many as 10 years in federal prison and a maximum fine of $250,000.
San Antonio residents who were arrested included Jaramillo-Hernandez, 49; Veronica Miranda-Acosta - aka Veronica Miranda Quiroz/Vero - 39; Juan Jose Mata Gonzalez, 45; Jose Eduardo "Eddie" Hernandez, 30; Fernando Vega-Jaramilli - aka Saul Jaramillo-Vega/Cachas - 31; Adela Mata Gonzalez - aka Adela Mata-Hernandez/"La Guera" - 49; Cynthia Liliana Hernandez, 25; Claudio Vega-Jaramilio, 23; Carrillo, 35; and Mello, 39.
During the two-year investigation, law enforcement officers arrested over 400 individuals and seized approximately $187,000 in cash, as well as three firearms and 19 vehicles.
"HSI is dedicated to working closely with its law enforcement partners in all areas to identify, arrest and prosecute individuals involved in human smuggling - regardless of their position," Spero said. "The arrests exemplify the high level of collaboration between HSI and its partners in investigating these cases."
In addition to HSI, agencies participating in the investigations also included the United States Border Patrol; US Drug Enforcement Agency; US Marshals Service, Customs and Border Protection Office of Field Operations-Air and Marine Operations; sheriff's deputies in Bexar, Maverick, Dimmit, and Zavala counties; and Dallas and Irving police departments, as well as the Joint Taskforce West, South Texas Corridor.
Assistant US Attorney Ralph Paradiso, Lewis Thomas and Katie Griffin in Del Rio will prosecute this case on behalf of the US Government.