Calexico is one of California’s best kept secrets. A delightful blend of American and Mexican cultures, Calexico’s small-town lifestyle, combined with its convenient proximity to the metropolitan areas of Mexicali and San Diego, make it a great place to live.
Kinda “homey,” right?
If Calexico is one of California’s “best kept secrets,” then the arcanum acarnorum, the secret of secrets, was the transnational alien smuggling ring allegedly being run through Calexico’s sister city, Mexicali, Mexico, by members of the notorious Avenues Latino street gang in Los Angeles.
An indictment handed up and sealed on October 1 and made public October 14 is the latest in a hammering series of actions against the Avenues by federal and state law enforcement authorities. [You can read an earlier Fairly Civil post about the Avenues gang here, and connect through links to other posts.]
ICE Press Release
The Immigration and Customs Enforcement Press Release describes the scope of the ring’s activities and some context:
According to the search warrant affidavit filed in federal court in connection with the case, the ring allegedly smuggled more than 200 illegal aliens per year into the United States. At one point, investigators say, members of the Drew Street clique contacted the smuggling organization about bringing the infamous matriarch of the gang, Maria Leon, into the United States from Mexico. While the ring did not end up smuggling Leon into the United States, she returned to the country illegally and was subsequently arrested. Leon is now serving a 100-month federal prison sentence for racketeering crimes related to the Avenues street gang.
The indictment in the case of United States v. Eduardo Alvarez-Marquez [U.S. District Court for Central District of California, Docket No. CR-09-01013, filed October 1, 2009] illustrates two general points about trans-border criminal organizations:
Background on the Mexicali–Calexico Border Crossing
The border crossing the Avenues exploited is one of the busiest. According to the City of Calexico’s website:
More than 18.9 million vehicles and pedestrians cross into U.S. through Calexico’s two Ports-of-Entry. The East Calexico port of entry provides an improved link to major trucking routes, and has increased the ease with which people and goods move between the two countries.
The Avenues alien smuggling business exploited the crush. The following excerpts from the indictment describe in some detail how the gang operated.
Defendants … would arrange for unidentified co-conspirators to smuggle illegal aliens into the United States by methods that included jumping over the international boundary fence, walking through the Calexico Port of Entry using fake or falsified documents, riding in cars entering the United States through the Calexico Port of Entry using fake or falsified documents, concealing themselves in hidden compartments in vehicles, and wading through the New River in and around Calexico, California.
Defendants … would negotiate the price and method that would be used to smuggle illegal aliens into the United States from Mexico… [and] would instruct illegal aliens to wait at particular locations in Mexicali, Mexico, in order to be smuggled into the United States.
The Safe Houses
The gang kept a “safe house” in Mexicali as a holding tank for aliens waiting to be smuggled. Once the aliens were safely across the border, the gang then stashed them in safe houses on the U.S. side, one close to the border, and another in Los Angeles. The aliens were later moved from these safe houses to other locations, some to as far away as New York City.
Defendants … would meet illegal aliens once they had been smuggled into the United States and take them to a residence in Holtville, California….until transportation from the area could be arranged.
Defendants … would [also] harbor and conceal recently smuggled illegal aliens at a residence on West Avenue 34 in Los Angeles…[and] would arrange and coordinate transportation for illegal aliens from the Los Angeles area to other locations in the United States.
Defendant Alvarez-Estrada told defendant Alvarez that unidentified co-conspirators would charge $700 to transport an illegal alien from Los Angeles to New York.
The smugglers charged different fees, depending on how the illegal aliens came across the border:
On August 26, 2008, by telephone using coded language, defendant [Rosario Maria] Rodriguez told a confidential informant (the “CI”) that defendant Alvarez [Eduardo Alvarez-Marquez] has different methods for smuggling illegal aliens into the United States; that the price for smuggling illegal aliens ranges from $2,500 to $4,500 depending whether the alien walked through the Port of Entry with false documents, rode as a passenger in a vehicle, or jumped over the international boundary fence in a remote area near Mexicali, Mexico…Rodriguez told the CI that an alien should not sneak into the United States by jumping across the international boundary fence unless the alien previously had been deported.
On August 26, 2008, by telephone using coded language, defendant Alvarez told the CI that Alvarez only smuggles illegal aliens through Mexicali, Mexico; that he charges $2,800 for aliens who jump the international boundary fence and are picked up by a vehicle in the United States; that he charges $3,500 for aliens who use a guide to walk the alien through the Port of Entry with a lost, stolen, or falsified green card or visa; and that he charges $4,300 for aliens who he arranges to have driven through the Port of Entry as a passenger in a vehicle.
Rodriguez told an unidentified co-conspirator that previously-deported illegal aliens were smuggled into the United States undetected through the Port of Entry at a price of $3,500 to $4,500.
Alvarez told an unidentified co-conspirator that Alvarez charged $4,000 to smuggle an illegal alien into the United States from Mexico through the use of a false green card.
Defendant Alvarez told an unidentified co-conspirator that Alvarez had a $2,800 option for smuggling illegal aliens into the United States from Mexico, which required the aliens to run for six to ten minutes, as well as a $3,800 option, which required the aliens to run for approximately 30 seconds before being hidden inside a truck, and Alvarez would transport the illegally smuggled aliens as far as the Avenue 34 residence near San Fernando Road and Fletcher Drive in Los Angeles, California.
Special Rate for Chinese
The smugglers also had a “special” rate for Chinese aliens who wanted to enter the United States through Mexico:
Defendant J. Carreon told defendant Alvarez that five illegal aliens from China wanted to be smuggled into the United States over the Mexican border while hidden inside a truck … Alvarez told defendant J. Carreon to charge the illegal aliens from China double the normal smuggling fee.
Gangster Family Values
Finally, no comment is really needed on this illumination of gangster family values:
Defendant Rodriguez told a friend that defendant A. [Aquilina] Alvarez was upset because defendant Alvarez-Estrada [her husband] had taught defendant Alvarez [her son] to sell drugs at age 14 and later taught Alvarez to smuggle illegal aliens, and the friend stated that A. Alvarez was also to blame for Alvarez’ illegal activities.
For our Spanish-speaking readers, here is an excerpt from the October 15 report about this case in La Opinion:
Caen ocho polleros
Supuestamente tienen nexos con una pandilla en LA
La Oficina de Control de Inmigración y Aduanas (ICE) informó ayer que sus agentes arrestaron a ocho personas vinculadas con el tráfico de drogas y de personas, que mantenían contactos estrechos con la clica Drew Street, perteneciente a la trístemente célebre pandilla Avenues del Este de Los Ángeles.
Se trata de un caso especial en el que un grupo dedicado a transportar personas de manera ilegal desde México a Estados Unidos, especialmente a Los Ángeles, desarrollaron una relación con grupos del hampa organizado, dedicados especialmente al narcotráfico, dijo Kevin Kozak, agente especial encargado de las investigaciones de ICE en esta ciudad.