Four sentenced for roles in immigrant ransom scheme

Four sentenced for roles in ransom scheme


McALLEN, Texas – Four U.S. citizens have been ordered to federal prison for conspiracy to harbor a Guatemalan woman and hostage-taking, announced Acting U.S. Attorney Jennifer B. Lowery.

Alvaro Hernandez, 22, McAllen, Ramiro Basaldua II, 35, Pharr, Rebecca Arevalo, 22, Donna, and Sarai Elizondo, 22, Pharr, had previously pleaded guilty.

Today, U.S. District Judge Randy Crane ordered Hernandez and Basaldua to serve 60 and 110 months in prison, respectively. The sentences will be immediately followed by three years of supervised release. In handing down Basaldua’s sentence, Judge Crane considered his criminal history including prior felony convictions for aggravated robbery and possession of a controlled substance.

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Elizondo and Arevalo were previously sentenced to 57 and 46 months, respectively.

In March 2017, a 19-year-old Guatemalan woman illegally entered the United States in hopes of reuniting with her brother in California. She had to stay in various alien stash homes in the Rio Grande Valley area. Eventually, Hernandez and Arevalo picked her up in Edinburg and took her to the Texas Inn hotel in McAllen.

From March 22 to March 27, 2017, Hernandez, Basaldua, Elizondo and Arevalo held the victim in the hotel room against her will. During that time, the men threatened her life and made calls to her brother for a ransom to spare her. Elizondo and Arevalo also attempted to make the victim look more “American” by fixing her hair, eyebrows and nails.

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The victim’s brother sent a total of $4,400 to pay the ransom for her release. The victim was later released at a park in McAllen.

All four have been and will remain in custody pending transfer to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near future.

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