A federal judge handed down sentences Wednesday to three men convicted of running a human smuggling operation in which more than 100 people were held hostage in a south Harris County home.
Jonathan Solorzano-Tavila, 30, Jose Cesmas-Borja, 26, and Eugenio Sesmas-Borja, 20, received sentences ranging from nine to 10 years after they were convicted of conspiracy to harbor and transport people illegally entering the U.S. They also were convicted of firearm charges. All three pleaded guilty to the crimes in April, authorities with the U.S. Attorney's Office in Houston said.
Two other men, 32-year-old Jose Aviles-Villa and Antonio Barruquet-Hildeberta, 46, also were arrested in connection with the case. They also pleaded guilty to the same charges and will be sentenced in September, authorities said.
The men were arrested March 19 when authorities discovered 115 people being held captive in a stash house on Almeda School Road. Authorities said the smugglers admitted to sneaking people into the country illegally then holding them in the small, squalid home while they arranged payment from hostages' families.
While in the stash house, the smugglers took the victims' clothes, shoes, phones and other possessions and used guns, paddles, tasers and other equipment to control and prevent them from escaping, authorities said.
Authorities discovered the stash house after smugglers demanded one woman pay an additional $13,000 for the release of her daughter and two grandchildren. If she did not, authorities said, the smugglers threatened to "make her family disappear and make her family pay." That woman called police, who later raided the home.
Solorzano-Tavila was sentenced to serve 10 years in a federal prison. Cesmas-Borja and Sesmas-Borja received sentences of more than nine years. Authorities said the smugglers were also in the country illegally and are all expected to face deportation proceedings following their release from prison.
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