Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Thirteen suspects in custody over smuggling charges

The Pinal County Sheriff's Office has thirteen people in custody, in relation to drug and human smuggling activities in the desert south of Maricopa.

On Friday, November 8th, around 6:30 am, a PCSO deputy was on patrol traveling westbound on Interstate 8 when he observed a Nissan passenger car and a Kia sports utility vehicle also traveling westbound on the freeway. The deputy observed the Nissan was only occupied by the driver and the Kia was occupied by the driver and a female passenger. Both vehicles then exited the interstate at Freeman Road.

The deputy continued traveling westbound for a few minutes and then turned around and began traveling eastbound. Within minutes, he observed the same two vehicles he had seen exiting at Freeman Road were now traveling eastbound on the interstate. The deputy could see both vehicles were now filled with passengers. The driver of both vehicles committed a civil traffic violation by not stopping at the stop sign prior to entering the freeway. The deputy along with another deputy stopped both vehicles on State Route 347.

The Kia was driven by Paulina Cuevas-Perez (age 37 of Mexico), inside of the vehicle were six other individuals - Xiomara Avalos (age 20 of Phoenix), Adrian Rodriguez-Zamora (age 25 of Mexico), Victor Aispuro-Bueno (age 19 of Mexico), Jesus Rios-Angulo (age 25 of Mexico), Juan Paez-Pena (age 28 of Mexico) and Jose Domingo Aispuro-Quiroa (age 38 of Mexico).

The Nissan was driven by Laura Hernandez (age 22 of Phoenix), inside of the vehicle were five other individuals –Mario Aispuro-Airpuro (age 50 of Mexico), Jose Feliz-Villegas (age 33 of Mexico), Juan Feliz-Amezquita (age 42 of Mexico), Jose Garcia (age 38 of Mexico) and Evbaristo Algandar-Algandar (age 20 of Mexico).

PCSO Anti-Smuggling Unit detectives determined Cuevas-Perez, who had already been deported two prior times from the United States back to Mexico, made the arrangements to pick up the illegals. She was planning on picking up the ten illegals near Interstate 8 and taking them to a hotel in the area of 83rd Avenue and McDowell Road in Phoenix. Cuevas-Perez knew she would need another vehicle so she called her cousin, Hernandez, to assist. Avalos is the daughter of Cuevas-Perez who decided to go with her mother to help. Hernandez was to be paid $200 per person she picked up.

Sheriff Paul Babeu stated, “The other ten individuals were interviewed by deputies and admissions were made the group had smuggled marijuana into the United States from Mexico. Mario was the guide for the group and he used a handheld radio to communicate with individuals on the mountain tops to make sure their route was clear. Each smuggler was paid a determined amount of cash depending on the weight of the marijuana they carried during their 5 day walk through the desert. Once they reached Interstate 8 a red pickup truck stopped, the marijuana was loaded into it and then they were picked up by the two vehicles.”

The PCSO seized $3,000 from the individual suspects which was tied to the smuggling operation. They also seized both vehicles used and will request they be forfeited. The U.S. Border Patrol and officers from the Ak-Chin Police Department assisted with this investigation.

Paulina Cuevas-Perez, Laura Hernandez, and Xiomarra Avalos were all booked into the Pinal County Jail for Human Smuggling, Participating in Human Smuggling and Conspiracy to Participate in Human Smuggling.

The other ten individuals were all booked into the Pinal County Jail for Human Smuggling and Conspiracy to Participate in Human Smuggling.

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