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Immigration News

Smuggler Pleads Guilty to Hostage-Taking

An undocumented Guatemalan national faces a maximum sentence of life in prison after pleading guilty to charges arising from his involvement in a human smuggling scheme linked to a drop house uncovered last year in Lancaster, Calif., where aliens were held against their will, denied food and assaulted.

Pedro Marcos-Marcos, 29, whose trial was slated to begin Tuesday morning, instead pleaded guilty to five felony counts - including two counts of hostage taking, two counts of harboring undocumented aliens and one count of conspiracy. Marco-Marcos’ sentencing is set for Feb. 7, 2011.

Marcos-Marcos was arrested Aug. 20 at his Los Angeles residence by agents with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Office of Homeland Security Investigations. He was identified by HSI agents as one of the ringleaders responsible for directing the brutal treatment of a Salvadoran national rescued from a Lancaster, Calif., smuggling drop house in Jan. 2009.

When HSI agents executed a search warrant at the home at 646 Martha Court, they discovered the Salvadoran and an Ecuadoran being held against their will. The Salvadoran told agents his captors had beaten him repeatedly and forced him to go days without food, all in an effort to collect $6,000 in outstanding smuggling fees.

“This case shows yet again the brutality and callousness of those involved in the human smuggling trade,” said Claude Arnold, special agent in charge of ICE HSI in Los Angeles. “To the smugglers, these people are nothing more than a payday and they have no qualms about using threats and violence to try to collect what they think they’re owed. We are working aggressively to disrupt this kind of activity and punish those responsible.”

In addition to Marcos-Marcos, two other undocumented Guatemalan nationals were charged in connection with this scheme. Roberto Jose-Tomas, 24, and Diego Francisco-Lorenzo, 33, who were discovered by HSI agents at the drop house, previously pleaded guilty to hostage taking. They are both awaiting sentencing.

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