EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – Four alleged members of a human trafficking organization have been extradited from Guatemala and will face felony charges in the United States, the Department of Justice announced on Thursday.
The four men had previously been indicted by a federal grand jury on charges of human smuggling resulting in death. Those stemmed from the May 2021 death of an Indigenous Guatemalan woman near Odessa, Texas.
“The U.S. Attorney’s Office is fully committed to working with our international and federal law enforcement partners to disrupt and dismantle transnational human smuggling organizations,” said U.S. Attorney Jaime Esparza for the Western District of Texas. “Through our combined efforts we will hold accountable human smugglers who callously disregard the safety of the people they transport. We are dedicated to ensuring that all victims of these groups receive justice.”
According to court documents, 39-year-old Felipe Diego Alonzo, a.k.a. “Siete,” Nesly Norberto “Canche” Martinez Gomez, 38, Lopez Mateo Mateo, 45 and a.k.a. “Bud Light,” and 36-year-old Juan Gutierrez Castro, a.k.a. “Andres,” conspired to facilitate the travel of large numbers of migrants from Guatemala through Mexico, and into the United States. They charged the migrants and their families approximately $10,000 to $12,000 for the trip.
The family of the woman who died had committed to paying the smugglers $10,000 to take her to the United States. The smugglers collected on the debt even after the woman had perished, the Department of Justice said. The indictment alleges the smuggling ring guided her for several days through the desert to Odessa, where she died. The smugglers allegedly disposed of her body on the side of a road in Crane County, Texas.
The government of Guatemala agreed to the extraditions, the first in five years involving human smuggling suspects, the DOJ said.
The indictments and extraditions were coordinated under Joint Task Force Alpha, a law enforcement coalition designed to disrupt and dismantle human smuggling and trafficking networks operating in El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Mexico that may also engage in other types of transnational organized crime.
Since its creation in 2021, JTFA has coordinated missions with the Justice Department, the Department of Homeland Security and other domestic partners with foreign law enforcement agencies in El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Mexico. To date, JTFA’s work has resulted in criminal charges and 183 domestic and international arrests of leaders, organizers and facilitators of human smuggling activities, the Department of Justice said.
The work of JTFA also led to several dozen convictions and prison sentences, seizure of drugs, firearms, ammunition and vehicles, as well as asset forfeitures, according to DoJ.