Extensive bilateral cooperation between the United States and Mexico resulted in the Mexico Attorney General’s Office’s “Fiscalía General de la República” (FGR) conducting a significant enforcement operation to dismantle a prolific transnational human smuggling organization operating in Nogales, Sonora, along the U.S.-Mexico border.
The targeted human smuggling organization is alleged to be responsible for illegally smuggling large numbers of individuals from Mexico, Central America and South America into Arizona and other locations throughout the United States. The enforcement operation included the execution of six arrest warrants in Mexico for smuggling coordinators: Arturo Tienda-Garcia aka Tuercas, Jose Guadalupe Tienda-Garcia aka Pantera, Gilberto Escalante-Osuna aka Mochomo, Uriel Cruz-Tienda aka Quiqui, Cristal Tolentino-Hernandez, and Alfonso Sotelo-Contreras aka Pajaro.
“The Attorney General established Joint Task Force Alpha to address the threat posed by transnational human smuggling networks, and this operation is a prime example of its impact,” said Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. “JTFA marshals the investigative and prosecutorial resources of the department, and its law enforcement partners, to target human smugglers and enhances coordination in transnational law enforcement efforts to better combat these criminal organizations.”
“Border security is less about erecting barriers between nations, and more about increasing cooperation among neighbors,” said U.S. Attorney Gary Restaino for the District of Arizona. “This operation is a stellar example of what can be accomplished when U.S. and Mexican authorities work together across the border. For years, these individuals have violated the laws of the United States and Mexico with impunity, and their apprehension will make citizens of both countries safer.”
“HSI-Phoenix is grateful for its collaboration with HSI Mexico City and their partnership with the Government of Mexico,” said Special Agent in Charge Scott Brown of HSI-Phoenix. “These joint efforts demonstrate the commitment of both of our nations to not let borders be barriers when it comes to confronting the transnational criminal organizations that negatively impact both of our nations.”
U.S. authorities provided assistance to the Mexico Attorney General’s Office through coordination under Joint Task Force Alpha, which was established by Attorney General Merrick B. Garland in June 2021 to marshal the investigative and prosecutorial resources of the Department of Justice, in partnership with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), to enhance U.S. enforcement efforts against the most prolific and dangerous human smuggling and trafficking groups operating in Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras. The task force focuses on disrupting and dismantling smuggling and trafficking networks that abuse, exploit and endanger migrants, pose national security threats or are involved in organized crime.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Arizona has also prosecuted other U.S.-based coordinators and operators with ties to the smuggling organization, including Benjamin Gallegos, Amalia Gonzalez-Lara, Sergio Vazquez-Flores, Macario Ulises Barragan-Cisneros, Jaziel Tienda-Ibarra, Daniel Garcia-Salgado, Cesar Bermeo-Diaz, Isamar Chaparro-Vizcarra and Oswaldo Tienda-Castro. These nine individuals have been convicted of conspiracy to transport and harbor illegal aliens for profit. Additional alleged coordinators for the organization have been indicted by a federal grand jury on alien smuggling charges including Enrique Villalobos-Lopez and Ian Esteban Serrano. For more information on individual cases, see the below case numbers:
- CR-21-1322-TUC-SHR-BGM (Gallegos)
- CR-21-0613-TUC-RCC-JR (Gonzalez-Lara/Vazquez-Flores)
- CR-21-2672-TUC-SHR-MSA (Barragan-Cisneros)
- CR-21-1882-TUC-JAS-MSA (Tienda-Ibarra)
- CR-21-1615-TUC-JAS-MSA (Garcia-Salgado)
- CR-21-1245-TUC-JCH-BGM (Bermeo-Diaz)
- CR-21-0869-TUC-RCC-BGM (Chaparro-Vizcarra/Serrano)
- CR-21-1038-TUC-SHR-LCK (Tienda-Castro)
- CR-21-1323-TUC-RM-LCK (Villalobos-Lopez)
HSI-Nogales led the investigation in the United States, working in concert with the U.S. Border Patrol. Support from HSI-Mexico City, with the assistance of HSI’s Transnational Criminal Investigative Unit (TCIU)-Mexico, was critical in providing coordination between American and Mexican law enforcement agencies. The Justice Department, including the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Arizona in Tucson, the Criminal Division’s Human Rights and Special Prosecutions Section, and the Office of International Affairs, provided significant assistance in this matter.