Federal Grand Jury Indicts Four Defendants on Money Laundering Conspiracy Charges

Published 8:46 am Monday, July 31, 2023

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A federal grand jury in the Southern District of Texas has returned a superseding indictment, charging four defendants with conspiracy to launder money. The indictment alleges their involvement in financial transactions aimed at concealing the nature, location, source, ownership, and control of proceeds from illicit human smuggling and unlawful harboring and transportation of undocumented aliens.

The four defendants named in the indictment are Erminia Serrano Piedra, also known as Irma and Boss Lady, 32, from Elgin, Texas; Oscar Angel Monroy Alcibar, aka Pelon, 40, also of Elgin; Pedro Hairo Abrigo, 34, from Killeen, Texas; and Juan Diego Martinez-Rodriguez, aka Gavilan, 38, from Dale, Texas.

According to the superseding indictment, the defendants allegedly conspired to utilize various means to conceal the proceeds of their illicit activities. They reportedly recruited straw persons to receive human smuggling profits in their bank accounts and then transferred the funds to the leaders of the organization under the guise of “work” payments for construction. Additionally, the defendants allegedly employed businesses and business accounts to facilitate the transfer of human smuggling proceeds. Furthermore, the defendants are accused of enlisting individuals to accept cash payments in exchange for checks from their business accounts, which were actually proceeds from human smuggling activities.

The indictment also includes provisions for the criminal forfeiture of three properties with current estimated values of approximately $2.275 million, $515,000, and $344,000, as well as money judgments amounting to at least $2,945,027.

Three of the defendants had previously faced charges of human smuggling in a separate indictment filed in the Southern District of Texas and unsealed on September 13, 2022. This indictment marked the culmination of a significant enforcement operation aimed at disrupting and dismantling an alleged prolific human smuggling organization operating in Texas and other regions. The operation led to the arrest of 14 alleged human smugglers, believed to be members of a human smuggling organization led by Piedra. This organization was accused of facilitating the unlawful transportation and movement of hundreds of migrants within the United States while harboring and concealing them from law enforcement. The migrants, primarily from Mexico, Guatemala, and Colombia, purportedly paid members of the organization to help them travel unlawfully to and within the United States. The indictment revealed that the human smuggling organization used various methods, including hiding migrants in confined spaces with little ventilation and driving them at high speeds with no vehicle safety devices, thereby endangering their lives.

Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite, Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Alamdar S. Hamdani for the Southern District of Texas, and Executive Associate Director Katrina W. Berger of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) announced the indictment.

The investigation leading to the indictment was a collaborative effort involving HSI Laredo, Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) U.S. Border Patrol Laredo Sector, and the Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General (DHS-OIG), with substantial assistance from various other law enforcement agencies and police departments.

The indictment was brought under Joint Task Force Alpha (JTFA), created in June 2021 by Attorney General Merrick B. Garland in partnership with DHS to combat the rise in prolific and dangerous smuggling from Central America. JTFA aims to disrupt and dismantle human smuggling and trafficking networks operating in El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Mexico, particularly those that endanger, abuse, or exploit migrants or engage in other types of transnational organized crime.