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Human smuggling organization leader faces time in prison

By Bivian Contreras

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    TUCSON, Arizona (KGUN) — The leader of a human smuggling organization faces 96 months in prison.

Manuel Ochoa-Vasquez, 39 from Paso Hondo, Mexico, was sentenced last week to a term of 96 months in prison, followed by three years of supervised release, for his management role in a criminal conspiracy to harbor and transport thousands of undocumented non-citizens.

Ochoa-Vasquez pleaded guilty on December 15, 2022, to Conspiracy to Transport Illegal Aliens for Profit and Conspiracy to Commit Money Laundering.

After establishing that people were being trafficked from the United States border to a mechanic’s shop and multiple houses in the Phoenix Metro area, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) agents started a year-long court-approved wiretap.

During the execution of search warrants, 54 undocumented non-citizens were found at Ochoa-Vasquez and his co-conspirators’ major stash home.

The people being smuggled were kept at the stash house until their smuggling payments were paid.

In addition, wire exchanges indicated that Ochoa-Vasquez and his co-conspirators occasionally threatened the families or sponsors of those being transported if the smuggling money were not paid on time.

Agents found weapons, ammo, and over $1.4 million in cash during search warrants conducted at the homes of Ochoa-Vasquez and co-conspirator Carlos Barron-Arredondo.

Ledgers recovered in their homes stated the smuggling of almost 7,000 people.

It was also revealed how co-conspirators laundered the money of the smuggling operations.

Barron-Arredondo was sentenced to 57 months in prison, followed by 36 months of supervised release, in addition to Ochoa-Vasquez. The remaining 13 co-conspirators, who all pled guilty and had varying degrees of involvement in the organization, were sentenced to time served to up to 63 months in prison.

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