Human smuggler pleads guilty to operating Phoenix stash house

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TUCSON, Ariz. – A Mexican national pleaded guilty Monday in federal court to his role as operator of a human smuggling stash house in Phoenix, following a probe by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Nogales.

The U.S. Border Patrol (USBP) Nogales Station assisted with the case.

Macario Ulises Barragan-Cisneros, 45, of Mexico, is scheduled to be sentenced Jan. 10, 2022, before U.S. District Judge Scott H. Rash. A conviction for conspiracy to transport and harbor undocumented people for profit carries a maximum penalty of 10 years, a maximum fine of $250,000, or both.

Barragan-Cisneros admitted that he conspired to transport and harbor undocumented people for profit. On Sept. 21, Barragan-Cisneros was arrested inside a trailer at the Camino Vista Mobile Home Park, 6532 West Van Buren St. The trailer was used to conceal undocumented noncitizens as part of a transnational human smuggling operation in which foreign nationals were smuggled across the U.S.-Mexico border near Nogales, Arizona and transported to Phoenix. Federal agents with HSI and USBP located 29 smuggled individuals, all citizens of Mexico or Guatemala, in or around the trailer.

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This case resulted from the efforts of the Joint Task Force Alpha (JTFA), which was established by Attorney General Merrick B. Garland in June to marshal the investigative and prosecutorial resources of the Department of Justice, in partnership with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), to enhance U.S. enforcement efforts against the most prolific and dangerous human smuggling and trafficking groups operating in Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras.

The Task Force focuses on disrupting and dismantling smuggling and trafficking networks that abuse, exploit, or endanger migrants, pose national security threats, and are involved in organized crime. JTFA consists of federal prosecutors and attorneys from U.S. Attorney’s Offices along the Southwest Border (District of Arizona, Southern District of California, Southern District of Texas, and Western District of Texas), from the Criminal Division and the Civil Rights Division, along with law enforcement agents and analysts from DHS. The FBI and the Drug Enforcement Administration are also part of the Task Force.

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The U.S. Attorney’s Office, District of Arizona, Tucson, handled the prosecution.

HSI is a directorate of ICE and the principal investigative arm of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), responsible for investigating transnational crime and threats, specifically those criminal organizations that exploit the global infrastructure through which international trade, travel, and finance move. HSI’s workforce of over 10,400 employees consists of more than 7,100 special agents assigned to 220 cities throughout the United States, and 80 overseas locations in 53 countries. HSI’s international presence represents DHS’s largest investigative law enforcement presence abroad and one of the largest international footprints in U.S. law enforcement.