Jury convicts foreign citizen in Mission harboring conspiracy

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FILE PHOTO: Signage is seen at the United States Department of Justice headquarters in Washington, D.C.

McALLEN, Texas – A federal jury in McAllen has convicted a 27-year-old Mexican citizen for conspiracy and harboring and transporting aliens within the country, announced U.S. Attorney Jennifer B. Lowery.

The jury deliberated for approximately an hour before convicting Silverio Moreno-Calderon following a two-day trial.

Moreno-Calderon illegally resided in a stash house on West 1st Street in Mission. On Feb. 2, authorities observed Moreno-Calderon exit the residence and meet with a driver in a black sport utility vehicle.

At that time, Moreno-Calderon prepared the vehicle for transportation of the undocumented individuals by rearranging the vehicle’s contents and viewing it from all angles with the doors both open and closed.

The jury heard that Moreno-Calderon directed three individuals into the vehicle and concealed them with blankets, boxes and various items. Soon after, the loaded vehicle departed from the residence. Law enforcement conducted a traffic stop and found the undocumented individuals in the car. They were later determined to be illegally present in the United States.

Authorities searched the residence and discovered an additional 24 people who had been smuggled into the country and were awaiting further transportation.

At trial, two of the aliens provided testimony describing how Moreno-Calderon confiscated their cell phones upon arrival to the house, enforced rules they needed to follow and determined when they would be able to contact their families. One of individuals testified how Moreno-Calderon punched him in the face for attempting to use his cell phone without permission.

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Moreno-Calderon’s co-conspirators previously pleaded guilty to transporting aliens within the United States. One of whom, the driver, testified how he had driven from Houston the day before and planned to transport four aliens back to the area. However, he and Moreno-Calderon were only able to fit three people in the vehicle due to their size. He also told the jury how he followed Moreno-Calderon’s advice as it seemed like he had done this many times. He testified how Moreno-Calderon told him that he was planning on walking a group north following the driver’s departure.

The defense attempted to convince the jury that Moreno-Calderon was just an alien who was also smuggled, not a smuggler. The jury did not believe those claims and found him guilty as charged.

U.S. District Judge Miceala Alvarez presided over the trial and set sentencing for Nov. 3. At that time, Moreno-Calderon faces up to 10 years on each conviction as well as a possible $10 million maximum fine.

Moreno-Calderon has been and will remain in custody pending that hearing.

Border Patrol conducted the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Eric D. Flores and Lee Fry are prosecuting the case.