McALLEN — Seven members of a smuggling conspiracy that harbored and transported more than 200 undocumented people have been ordered to federal prison.
According to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s office, the organization transported people from the Rio Grande Valley to Houston from about Feb. 10, 2014, through Sept. 1, 2016.
Brownsville residents Jose Luis Soto-Lopez, 52, who led the operation with his daughter, Erica Janine Soto, 27, were sentenced to 54 and 21 months in federal prison respectively, for their involvement in the smuggling organization. Soto-Lopez, who is not a U.S. citizen, will likely face deportation upon completion of his sentence.
According to the release, the two recruited individuals to either harbor undocumented people or transport them from stash houses throughout Hidalgo County to a residence in Houston.
Soto-Lopez and Soto were involved in at least seven failed attempts to transport 48 undocumented persons, some of whom were minors, prior to their arrest.
The father-daughter duo were discovered when authorities conducted a search of their residence in Brownsville and found multiple vehicles that had been used by the organization and were not registered under Soto-Lopez nor Soto’s names.
Five Mexican citizens also involved in the smuggling organization have also been sentenced to varying terms, the highest being a 32-month sentence. All are expected to face deportation upon completion of their sentences.