Guatemalan nationals charged with conspiring to transport illegal aliens | USAO-NM

ALBUQUERQUE, NM — Alexander MM Uballez, the United States Attorney for the District of New Mexico, announced today that Andres Toj and Hugo Leonel Panjoj-Leon have been charged in federal court with conspiracy to transport illegal aliens. Toj, 32, and Panjoj-Leon, 28, both Guatemalan citizens, will remain in detention pending trial, which is not yet scheduled.

According to the criminal complaints that preceded the indictment, on August 19, in response to information about possible people smuggling, US Border Patrol agents searched two rooms at a hotel in Las Cruces, New Mexico. During a search of the rooms, agents found a total of nine undocumented people. Among them was Toj, who allegedly drove the others to Las Cruces and put them up at the hotel while they awaited transportation by someone else.

On September 7, Border Patrol officers again responded to information about possible human smuggling at a Las Cruces hotel. In a search of three rooms, agents found a total of 12 undocumented people, including Panjoj-Leon. Like Toj, Panjoj-Leon allegedly transported the others to Las Cruces and put them up at the hotel while they awaited further transport.

“Transnational criminal organizations thrive when federal law enforcement efforts are siled and uncoordinated,” U.S. Attorney Uballez said. “Through partnership, shared vision, and concerted effort, Joint Task Force Alpha will transfer the full weight of the federal government to those who benefit from migrant desperation.”

“These events underscore our commitment to protecting our community from the illegal actions of transnational criminal organizations,” said Acting Chief Patrol Agent for the El Paso Sector Peter Jaquez. “Without the cooperation of our law enforcement partners and the United States Attorney for the District of New Mexico, who have assisted us in bringing these ruthless smugglers to justice.”

“Human smugglers conspire to subvert our country’s immigration laws for their own benefit with a utter disregard for human life because they treat people like commodities,” said Frank Burrola, senior special agent in charge of HSI El Paso. “Thanks to the excellent teamwork between HSI and BP, along with the US Attorney’s Office, smugglers will be held accountable for their actions as we work to dismantle the transnational criminal origins involved.”

A complaint is just an allegation. A defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty. If convicted, Toj and Panjoj-Leon face up to 10 years in prison.

These charges resulted from the coordinated efforts of Joint Task Force Alpha (JTFA). The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Mexico is part of the JTFA, formed by Attorney General Merrick B. Garland in June 2021 to combine the investigative and prosecuting resources of the Department of Justice in partnership with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to address U.S. Step up enforcement efforts against the most prolific and dangerous human smuggling and human trafficking groups operating in Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras. The task force focuses on dismantling and dismantling smuggling and human trafficking networks that abuse, exploit or endanger migrants, pose a threat to national security and are implicated in organized crime. JTFA is composed of federal attorneys and attorneys-at-law from the U.S. Attorneys along the Southwest Boundary (District of Arizona, Southern District of California, District of New Mexico, Southern District of Texas, and Western District of Texas), the Criminal Division, and the Civil Rights Division, along with Law enforcement officers and analysts from DHS’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement and US Border Patrol’s Customs and Border Protection. The FBI and Drug Enforcement Administration are also part of the task force.

US Border Patrol and Homeland Security Investigations investigated this case with assistance from the Dona Ana County Sheriff’s Office. Assistant United States Attorneys Kristopher D. Jarvis and Matt Ramirez are prosecuting the case.

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