Remarks as Delivered
Thank you for joining us today. I am happy to be here in San Antonio to highlight our team, our whole-of-government efforts in combatting human smuggling and the risk to life it poses. We are here to announce the unsealing of an indictment in a case charging four Guatemalan nationals with an international human smuggling conspiracy that caused the death of a young woman, an indigenous Guatemalan migrant. As you will read in the court filings, in the spring of 2021, the young woman died in the course of the dangerous journey these defendants, and others, used to smuggle her and others into the United States.
Our deepest condolences go out to this young woman’s family, our team has been in contact with her family and they will continue to have our support. Ensuring that victims and their families remain at the center of our practice has been a priority for the Criminal Division during my time as Assistant Attorney General.
Among those indicted was the alleged leader of the organization, Felipe Diego Alonzo, also known as Siete or Seven. This case is the direct result of Attorney General Garland’s human smuggling and trafficking task force, Joint Task Force Alpha, led by prosecutors from the Criminal Division’s Human Rights and Special Prosecutions Section, or HRSP, and the United States Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Texas.
In addition to the unsealing of the indictment, I am pleased to report that just a couple days ago, on August 2nd, coordinated domestic and foreign law enforcement efforts over the past year culminated in a massive law enforcement takedown operation in Guatemala. That operation resulted in the arrest of Alonzo and his three alleged co-conspirators in the indictment, along with 15 other individuals on an array of foreign criminal charges who are alleged to be a part of this extensive human smuggling network. In addition to these arrests, dozens of search warrants were executed against the smuggling ring by Guatemalan authorities, and substantial assets were seized, including 10 high valued motor vehicles, firearms, and cash.
This latest indictment and historic international arrest operation are the latest example of the efforts undertaken by Joint Task Force Alpha since its inception in June 2021. By combining the efforts and resources of numerous Department of Justice prosecutors and law enforcement officials, particularly Homeland Security Investigations special agents, from across the country and overseas, cases and law enforcement actions like this one highlight the collective resolve and commitment we have dedicated to combatting human smuggling at its source. JTF Alpha’s dedicated personnel, along with our international law enforcement partners, are working tirelessly to disrupt and dismantle these harmful smuggling and trafficking networks.
Joint Task Force Alpha was created to investigate and prosecute the international networks responsible for dangerous and prolific human smuggling activities that exploit and victimize migrants. These indictments demonstrate the Department of Justice’s commitment to holding accountable criminal organizations that prey upon vulnerable people for profit.
The message to human smugglers should be crystal clear: you will be held accountable for your dangerous and often lethal, criminality. The combined might of U.S. law enforcement and its international partners will continue to aggressively target you and your illegal operations for disruption and dismantlement, both within the United States and south of the border, using every tool, technique, and resource at our disposal.
It’s important that I acknowledge and express my deep appreciation to our key partners in law enforcement involved in this case, who have worked on this matter in close coordination with Joint Task Force Alpha’s Criminal Division leadership team and prosecutors throughout the investigation.
This has been a truly international investigation led by agents from the Department of Homeland Security, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)’s Homeland Security Investigations. HSI Midland led the U.S. investigation, working in concert with HSI Guatemala, and the HSI Human Smuggling Unit in Washington, D.C. HSI received substantial assistance from ICE’s Enforcement and Removal Operations, U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s National Targeting Center including Operation Sentinel; U.S. Border Patrol, the U.S. Marshals Service, the Odessa and Midland Police Departments; the Texas Department of Public Safety; and the Ector County, Midland County, and Crane County Sherriff’s Offices.
The work of the Criminal Division’s Office of Prosecutorial Development, Assistance and Training also deserves special acknowledgement for the support and assistance they provided in this matter. Their tremendous ongoing efforts at capacity-building and case mentoring with their Guatemalan counterparts are critical to laying the groundwork for significant law enforcement actions like those we’ve announced today, and to address the root causes of human smuggling.
The Department of Justice wants to express great thanks and is deeply appreciative of the efforts of Guatemalan law enforcement, who were instrumental in furthering this investigation and taking their own actions against this network.
Finally, I want to specifically recognize the team who are handling this case. The Joint Task Force Alpha Deputy Director James Hepburn of HRSP, AUSAs Adrian Gallegos and Jose Luis Acosta of the Western District of Texas and JTFA. AUSA John Fedock of the Western District of Texas and HRSP Historian/Latin America Specialist Joanna Crandall.
I know that together, JTF Alpha and our dedicated partners will continue to pursue our mission to disrupt and dismantle human smuggling and trafficking networks, including those that pose national security risks, have links to transnational organized crime, and most especially, those that abuse, exploit, or jeopardize the lives of those being smuggled.
And now it is my pleasure to turn it over to Executive U.S Attorney Kristy Callahan of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Texas.