NEWS:USA: Three arrested in scheme to smuggle, sell immigrants

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Subject: NEWS:USA: Three arrested in scheme to smuggle, sell immigrants
From: Jyothi Kanics (jkanics@igc.org)
Date: Mon Jun 14 1999 - 18:34:09 EDT


Three arrested in scheme to smuggle, sell immigrants
June 12, 1999

STOCKTON, Calif. (AP) - Three people have been accused of smuggling Mexican
immigrants into the Central Valley and then trying to peddle them for $ 350
apiece.

Agents from the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service arrested the
three Thursday evening as they were allegedly trying to sell approximately
20 immigrants they'd smuggled into the United States.

The federal agents posed as labor contractors interested in obtaining
workers, and lured the three suspects to an address in south Stockton,
where they were arrested. The arrests culminated a six-month investigation.

Taken into custody were Guadalupe Ponce-Blas, 49, Luis Martinez-Santos, 30,
and Arcadio Martinez-Gregio, 40. They were held for investigation of
conspiring to transport illegal aliens and transporting illegal aliens,
punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a $ 250,000 fine, records show.

Officials with the U.S. Department of Justice said Friday that they don't
know where the three lived before their arrests.

Ponce-Blas is being held in the Sacramento County Jail without bail pending
a detention hearing scheduled for Wednesday. Martinez-Santos and
Martinez-Gregio also are being held in Sacramento pending a hearing Tuesday.

The sting was the first of two major clusters of immigrant-smuggling
arrests in Northern California within a 24-hour period beginning late
Thursday night. On Friday, officers with the California Highway Patrol
arrested several men on charges of transporting illegal immigrants after
stopping a truck loaded with more than a dozen immigrants near Yreka.

Authorities said Ponce-Blas acted as the broker for the 20 laborers, who
paid more than $ 1,500 apiece to be smuggled into the U.S. According to the
U.S. attorney's office, Ponce-Blas arranged Thursday's sale of immigrants
with the undercover agents. Martinez-Santos and Martinez-Gregio allegedly
drove the truck in which the laborers hid while on their way to the Central
Valley.

Ponce-Blas reportedly tried to sell the workers to the agents for $ 350
apiece. All of the immigrants except for two have been returned to Mexico.
The remaining two are scheduled to testify against the alleged traffickers
next week.


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