The Justice Department headquarters. Foto Google.
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Two Guatemalan nationals were arraigned in federal court on an indictment charging them with conspiracy to transport illegal aliens.
Andres Toj, 32, and Hugo Leonel Panjoj-Leon, 28, will remain in custody pending trial, which has not been scheduled.
“Transnational criminal organizations thrive when federal law enforcement efforts are siloed and uncoordinated,” said U.S. Attorney Alexander M.M. Uballez for the District of New Mexico. “Through partnership, common vision, and mutual efforts, Joint Task Force Alpha will bring the full weight of the federal government to bear on those who profit off of the desperation of migrants.”
According to the criminal complaints that preceded the indictment, on Aug. 19, in response to information about possible human smuggling, U.S. Border Patrol (BP) agents investigated two rooms at a Las Cruces, New Mexico, hotel. During a search of the rooms, agents located a total of nine undocumented non-citizens. Among them was Toj, who allegedly drove the others to Las Cruces and housed them at the hotel as they awaited transportation to be provided by another person.
On Sept. 7, BP agents again responded to information regarding possible human smuggling at a hotel in Las Cruces. During a search of three rooms, agents located a total of 12 undocumented non-citizens, including Panjoj-Leon. Like Toj, Panjoj-Leon allegedly transported the others to Las Cruces and housed them at the hotel as they awaited further transportation.
“These events highlight our commitment to protect our community against the illicit actions of Transnational Criminal Organizations,” said El Paso Sector Acting Chief Patrol Agent Peter Jaquez. “We could not be as effective as we have been at targeting these individuals without the cooperation of our law enforcement partners and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Mexico, who have assisted us in bringing these ruthless smugglers to justice.”
“Human smugglers conspire to undermine our nation’s immigration laws for their own profit with complete disregard for human life as they treat people like commodities,” said Special Agent in Charge Frank Burrola of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) El Paso. “Thanks to the outstanding teamwork between HSI and BP, along with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, smugglers will be held accountable for their actions as we work to dismantle the transnational criminal orgaqnizations that are involved.”
A complaint is only an allegation. A defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty. If convicted, Toj and Panjoj-Leon face up to 10 years in prison.
These charges resulted from the coordinated efforts of Joint Task Force Alpha (JTFA). The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Mexico is part of the JTFA, 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, or endanger migrants, pose national security threats, and are involved in organized crime.
JTFA consists of federal prosecutors and attorneys from U.S. Attorneys’ Offices along the Southwest Border (District of Arizona, Southern District of California, District of New Mexico, Southern District of Texas, and Western District of Texas), from the Criminal Division and the Civil Rights Division, along with law enforcement agents and analysts from DHS’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and Customs and Border Protection’s U.S. Border Patrol. The FBI and the Drug Enforcement Administration are also part of the Task Force.
U.S. Border Patrol and HSI investigated this case with assistance from the Dona Ana County Sheriff’s Office. Assistant U.S. Attorney Kristopher D. Jarvis and Matt Ramirez for the District of New Mexico are prosecuting the case.