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Rio Rico man flees during federal human smuggling trial | American Media Network
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Rio Rico man flees during federal human smuggling trial

August 1st 2012   ·   0 Comments

A local man has been convicted in a case in which authorities accused him of leading a Nogales-based human smuggling organization that moved thousands of illegal immigrants into the United States.

File photo/Manuel C. Coppola

However, neither Eusebio Arce-Padilla, 57, of Rio Rico, nor his co-defendant Miguel Torres-Organiz, 62, of Tucson, were present to hear a federal jury find them guilty of conspiracy to bring, transport, and harbor illegal aliens. Both men absconded during the two-week trial at U.S. District Court in Tucson that ended July 23, authorities say.

Judge Cindy Jorgenson issued a bench warrant for the arrest of the missing convicts, who are scheduled to be sentenced on Oct. 1, 2012.

A third co-defendant, Miguel Toralba-Mendia, 50, of Tucson, will face a new trial starting Oct. 2 after Jorgenson declared a mistrial in his case.

According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Arizona, evidence showed that Arce-Padilla, also known as “Chevo,” was the head of an organization that, over a period of more than five years, guided illegal immigrants from Nogales, Sonora to safe houses in Nogales, Ariz. From there they were taken in private vehicles around the I-19 Border Patrol checkpoint and on to shuttle businesses in Tucson. Next, they boarded marked shuttle vans and were taken to parking lots in Phoenix.

In Phoenix, the immigrants were taken by private vehicle to drop houses. Once money was collected from their sponsors, the undocumented travelers were transported to their ultimate destinations in the United States.

The organization collected fees in the average range of $1,700 to $2,000 for the trip from Nogales, Sonora to Phoenix, prosecutors said.

Arce-Padilla was one of 74 people indicted in April 2010 as part of Operation In Plain Sight, a large-scale investigation conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI). Two of the defendants were convicted at an earlier trial, and most others took guilty pleas.

“These convictions represent a significant victory in law enforcement’s efforts to dismantle illicit transnational human smuggling networks and the infrastructures that support them,” said Matt Allen, Special Agent in Charge of U.S. Immigration and

Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in Arizona.

“HSI’s Operation In Plain Sight investigation was successful in large part because of the tireless dedication of our special agents as well as extensive cooperation from our federal, state and local partners and Mexican federal police,” said Matt Allen, special agent in charge of ICE HSI in Arizona.

That effort, Allen said, has “resulted in the conviction or guilty pleas of more than 70 defendants, including the head of the alien smuggling organization itself.”

But while the alleged head of the organization, Arce-Padilla, has now been convicted in the case, he has not been in custody since he posted a $5,000 cash bond shortly after his arrest in April 2010, court records show.

A version of this column originally appeared in www.nogalesinternational.com.
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This article originally posted on U.S. Open Borders.

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