HOUSTON, Texas — A federal court in Houston convicted two human smugglers for operating a series of stash houses. The guilty included a Mexican illegal alien and a U.S. citizen.
Albino Vargas-Hernandez, a 48-year-old illegal alien from Mexico, and Rene Camacho, a 47-year-old U.S. citizen from Houston, pleaded guilty December 12 to conspiracy to transport and harbor illegal aliens. Another Mexican national, 21-year-old Hiram Lamarca-Gonzalez pleaded guilty earlier this month, according to information obtained from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) officials in Houston.
Court records obtained by Breitbart Texas revealed that ICE HSI special agents carried out a surveillance operation in Houston during the summer of 2018. The agents observed Vargas making multiple trips from his home on the north side of Houston to stash house trailer on the city’s northwest side. The now-convicted human smuggler would pick up a person from the trailer and drive to another location where he met with people in another vehicle. In each case, a person would exit his vehicle and depart with the other party, according to the plea agreement.
Agents also observed Vargas dropping off suspected illegal aliens at multiple trailers in the same area.
On August 22, 2018, agents observed Vargas picking up suspected illegal aliens at one of the trailers and transporting them to a nearby gas station where he met up with the driver of a gold Dodge pickup truck, records stated. A man exited Vargas’s vehicle and got in the truck. Both vehicles drove away.
Agents conducted a traffic stop on the Dodge truck and agents determined that all of the truck’s occupants were illegal aliens. They identified one of the aliens as the person being smuggled. The smuggled alien had already paid his fee and been released by Vargas to the people in the truck.
Based upon information gathered during this traffic stop, agents obtained search warrants for the suspected stash houses and Vargas’s residents. While surveilling one of the trailers, agents observed Vargas and a co-defendant, Comacho, entering the trailer. The agents then executed the search warrant and discovered 12 illegal aliens inside the trailer along with Vargas and Comacho. Three of the 12 migrants were juveniles, records state. The agents found the migrants in a closet in one of the bedrooms.
The migrants found in the trailers admitted to paying smuggling fees to be transported into the U.S. One of the migrants identified Vargas as being in charge of the stash house operation and the money. The migrant stated that Vargas put the money in envelopes and wrote notes in a leger.
Agents found the leger, referred to as a “pollo” list. They also found handguns, money-service receipts ($117,784.70), and two cashier’s checks ($99,234.16) in the smuggler’s residence.
The agents arrested Vargas and Comacho for their roles in the human smuggling stash houses. They also arrested Lamarca for guarding the stash houses, officials said in the press release.
U.S. District Court Judge Alfred Bennett presided over the hearing and scheduled a sentencing hearing for February 13, 2020, for all three convicted human smugglers. Each faces up to 10 years in federal prison and a fine of up to $250,000. The case is being prosecuted by U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Texas, Ryan Patrick’s office by Assistant U.S. Attorney Richart Bennett.
Bob Price serves as associate editor and senior political news contributor for the Breitbart Texas-Border team. He is an original member of the Breitbart Texas team. Follow him on Twitter @BobPriceBBTX and Face