Final defendant in hostage taking conspiracy case gets 15 years

McALLEN — The ninth and final defendant in a case involving the taking of undocumented migrants as hostages was sentenced to more than 15 years in prison Tuesday, court records show.

U.S. District Judge Micaela Alvarez handed down a 188-month prison sentence on Jose Mapaleon Rodriguez for his role in a scheme to bring in, harbor and take hostage several undocumented persons, court notes show.

Rodriguez, 28, of Mission, who was one of nine men involved in the scheme, will also be required to remain on supervised release for three years upon completion of the more than 15-year prison sentence.

Prior to Rodriguez’s sentencing Tuesday, Luis Aguilar, Alhan Sanchez, Aaron Sanchez, Jose Luis Rodriguez-Melchor, Ricardo Renteria, Ricardo Renteria-Rivera, Raul Mario Rodriguez Jr., were sentenced in September 2017, while Juan Perez-Alcoser was sentenced on Nov. 28, 2017, court records show.

Luis Aguilar Jr., 21, brothers Alhan Sanchez, 22, and Aaron Sanchez, 23, and Ricardo Renteria, 28, all of Mission, in addition to Renteria’s nephew, Ricardo Renteria-Rivera, 23, a Mexican citizen illegally in the U.S., all pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit hostage taking in 2016, court notes show.

The men received sentences ranging from 30 months to as many as 350 months in prison, court notes show.

Aguilar Jr.’s father, Luis Aguilar, 66, and Jose Luis Rodriguez-Melchor, 32, both pleaded guilty to being an illegal alien unlawfully present in the U.S. after deportation and harboring an illegal alien and were sentenced to 97 and 105 months, respectively.

Aguilar and Renteria-Rivera are expected to face deportation proceedings following their release from prison, while the remaining defendants were further ordered to serve three years of supervised release following their release from prison.

The men were implicated in an investigation that ultimately revealed that a group of undocumented immigrants had been held at a stash house while they awaited a way up north.

On May 2, 2016, a home invasion crew that included an armed Aguilar Jr. came into the stash house and demanded the undocumented persons leave with them. The person watching over the stash house was on the ground with a gun to his head. The undocumented immigrants were then taken to another location where their cellphones and most of their belongings were taken from them.

According to government prosecutors, some of the undocumented migrants were taken to Aguilar Jr.’s residence, which he shared with his father. While there, Aguilar Jr. told them that their initial smuggling arrangements were no good anymore and they had to make new arrangements with him. Aguilar Jr. held them at gunpoint and demanded they each give him the names and phone numbers of family members whom he then called to demand $2,000 for their release.

Subsequently, after receiving the money, Aguilar Jr. turned the group of undocumented persons over to Rodriguez-Melchor to arrange smuggling further north. Instead, however, Rodriguez-Melchor sold the group to Renteria-Rivera for $200 each.

Again, family members were called and told they must send additional monies to secure their release. The Renterias carried weapons and threatened to shoot the immigrants if anyone tried to escape. Renteria helped pick up the money and then took them to a parking lot in McAllen where they were supposed to sneak into the air dams of tractor-trailers.

Instead of doing so, three of the people in the group turned themselves in to U.S. Border Patrol agents.

Prosecutors alleged that Jose Mapoleon Rodriguez played a role in extorting additional family members for the release of the undocumented immigrants. Jose Mapoleon pleaded guilty November 2018 to one count of hostage taking; in exchange, government prosecutors agreed to dismiss the harboring and additional hostage taking charges, court notes show.

On May 18, 2016, authorities executed three search warrants. At that time, they seized firearms from the Aguilar, Sanchez and Renteria residences.