Leader of Hostage Taking Conspiracy Gets Life in Federal Prison
HOUSTON, February 4, 2015 - The leader and six others involved in a hostage taking conspiracy that left victims in deplorable conditions have all been ordered to federal prison as a result of their criminal actions, announced United States Attorney Kenneth Magidson
A Houston federal jury convicted Mexican national Samuel Castro-Flores, aka “Chame” or “Chamuco,” 42, March 6, 2014, on 18 counts to include conspiracy to commit hostage taking, hostage taking and other charges involving smuggling aliens and firearms. The jury found him guilty of one count of conspiracy to commit hostage taking, five counts of hostage taking, one count of conspiracy to harbor illegal aliens, five counts of harboring illegal aliens, one count of being an alien illegally present in the U.S., one count of conspiracy to transport illegal aliens, two counts of transportation of illegal aliens, as well as using and carrying a firearm in furtherance of a crime and brandishing that firearm. The verdict was returned following a two-week trial and only an hour of deliberation. At the time he committed these crimes Castro-Flores was living illegally in the United States and was also on supervised release for a 2009 federal alien smuggling conviction.
Today, U.S. District Judge Gray Miller, who presided over the trial, sentenced Castro-Flores, along with six others also convicted in relation to the conspiracy. Castro-Flores was ordered to serve life in prison plus an additional seven years for brandishing a firearm during the commission of the hostage taking offenses. Judge Miller also revoked his supervised release from the 2009 case and ordered he serve an additional two years in prison for that offense. Six other defendants were also sentenced today. Virgilio De La Torre-Santana was ordered to serve 360 months, while Joshua Andrew Carbajal received a 240-month-term of imprisonment. Jobs Solis-Benito, Emmanuel Rivera-Abarca, Adauto Aguilar-Lara and Marco Garcia-Perez were each sentenced to respective terms of 97, 38, 36 and 31 months in federal prison. With the exception of Carbajal, who is from Alice, the remaining defendants are illegal aliens and expected to face deportation proceedings following release from prison.
At the hearing today, the court also heard from a female victim who was sexually abused by members of the conspiracy while being held hostage by Castro-Flores and his co-defendants. In handing down the sentences, Judge Miller noted the deplorable conditions to which the alien hostages were subjected as well as the large scope of the hostage taking and alien smuggling organization led by Castro-Flores.
Judge Miller also ordered all defendants today to pay restitution in the amount of $38,130, which represented the amount of money the group extorted from the families and friends of the alien hostages.
The charges in the case stem from an investigation that began in mid-August 2012. Two illegal aliens had been smuggled into the country and their family members began to receive extortion calls demanding money for their release.
On Sept. 7, 2012, agents executed a search warrant at a residence on Amblewood Drive in Houston and encountered 26 illegal aliens, at least two of whom were juveniles, being held hostage inside the residence. According to the victim aliens, upon arrival in Houston they were forced to undress and informed they had been “sold” and would not be released until family members paid for their release. Victims reported they were held in their underwear, in locked rooms with boarded up windows and in deplorable conditions. The victims also indicated they were guarded by men constantly armed with a handgun. Some victims said they were threatened with harm or death if payment was not received.
The evidence at trial showed Castro-Flores was the leader of the organization which held these aliens hostage and extorted their families for thousands of dollars before their release. The evidence also demonstrated Castro-Flores took extensive steps to avoid being detected by law enforcement. For example, he asked witnesses to help him present a false story that he was simply a repairman who happened to be at the Amblewood residence on one occasion to fix the air-conditioning.
An air-conditioning repair company owner in Houston reported that he once employed Castro-Flores as a helper in his business but fired him after learning he was involved in smuggling aliens. He also testified Castro-Flores later tried to use him to present a false impression to law enforcement that he was only involved in the air-conditioning business.
The investigation leading to the charges in this case was conducted by Homeland Security Investigations in Houston, Washington, D.C., and Virginia along with the Houston Police Department. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Casey N. MacDonald and Arthur R. Jones prosecuted the case.