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Justice Department catches 4 Guatemalan fugitives in effort to disrupt transnational human smuggling network

Four alleged Guatemalan human smugglers indicted in the U.S. have been arrested as part of a “significant” operation to “disrupt and dismantle a transnational human smuggling organization,” the Justice Department announced Thursday. 

The individuals, who were taken into custody in the Central American country by request of the U.S., “allegedly conspired with other smugglers to facilitate the travel of large numbers of migrants from Guatemala through Mexico, and ultimately, to the United States, charging the migrants and their families approximately $10,000 to 12,000 USD for the perilous journey,” prosecutors say. 

“These recent arrests are the culmination of over a year’s efforts of international coordination and investigation into this extensive human smuggling operation,” U.S. Attorney Ashley Hoff said in a statement. “This specific criminal organization has smuggled a large number of migrants from Guatemala, which included a young woman who died while being smuggled, and whose body was later callously dumped by the smugglers in Crane County, Texas.” 

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The Justice Department said on Aug. 2 that the Guatemalan National Civil Police executed 26 search warrants in Huehuetenango, El Quiché, Totonicapán, Alta and Baja Verapaz, arresting 19 people, including the four fugitives wanted by the U.S. 

They were identified as Felipe Diego Alonzo, aka “Siete,” 38; Nesly Norberto Martinez Gomez, aka “Canche,” 37; Lopez Mateo Mateo, aka “Bud Light,” 42; and Juan Gutierrez Castro, aka “Andres,” 45. 

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“As a result of the search warrants, law enforcement recovered 10 high-valued motor vehicles, firearms and cash,” the Justice Department added. 

U.S. Attorney Ashley Hoff said Thursday that the arrests by Guatemalan police are the "culmination of over a year’s efforts of international coordination and investigation into this extensive human smuggling operation."

 

Prosecutors also said “the human smugglers targeted in this operation are alleged to be responsible for the death of a young indigenous Guatemalan woman who died in Texas in April 2021.” 

The U.S. Justice Department has requested the four alleged human smugglers to be extradited to American soil.

“According to the indictment, the defendants and their co-conspirators guided her for several days through the desert to Odessa, Texas, where she ultimately perished,” the Justice Department said. “Upon learning of her death, the defendants and their co-conspirators quickly worked to get rid of the body and discarded it on the side of a country road in Crane County, Texas.” 

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