5 South Texas Residents Sentenced In Hostage-Taking Conspiracy

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Monet Curtis was found guilty of one count of second-degree murder and one count of first-degree child abuse resulting in death of her 20 month old son. Curtis faces up to 40 years in prison for her crimes.

2 previously deported illegal aliens from Mexico also sentenced to 97 months and 105 months for harboring an illegal alien

MCALLEN, Texas — Five men who resided in the Mission, Texas, received lengthy federal prison sentences Tuesday for their involvement in an illegal alien hostage-taking scheme.

Luis Aguilar Jr., 19; brothers Alhan Sanchez, 20, and Aaron Sanchez, 21, and Ricardo Renteria, 26, all of Mission; and Renteria’s nephew Ricardo Renteria-Rivera, 23, a Mexican citizen illegally present in the United States, were sentenced Sept. 5 by U.S. District Judge Micaela Alvarez. Judge Alvarez said that a strong message needs to be sent and ordered Aguilar to serve 350 months in federal prison. Brothers Alhan and Aaron Sanchez were sentenced to 324 and 195 months, respectively. Renteria-Rivera was ordered to serve a 290-month-sentence; his uncle will serve 300 months’ in prison.

In handing down the sentences, Aguilar Jr.’s father, Luis Aguilar, 64, and Jose Luis Rodriguez-Melchor, 30, both pleaded guilty to being an illegal alien unlawfully present in the United States after deportation and to harboring an illegal alien; they were sentenced to 97 and 105 months, respectively. They and Renteria-Rivera are expected to face deportation proceedings following their release from prison. The remaining defendants were further ordered to serve three years of supervised release following their release from prison.

According to court documents, the investigation revealed that a group of illegal aliens had been held at a stash house awaiting further transportation north. On the night of May 2, 2016, a home invasion crew that included an armed Aguilar Jr. came into the stash house and demanded the aliens leave with them. The caretaker of the stash house was on the ground with a gun to his head. The aliens were then taken to another location where their cellphones and most of their belongings were taken from them.

Some of the illegal aliens were taken to Aguilar Jr.’s residence which he shared with his father. While there, Aguilar Jr. told them that their initial smuggling arrangements were no good anymore and they had to make new arrangements with him. Aguilar Jr. held them at gunpoint and demanded the aliens give him the names and phone numbers of family members whom he then called to demand $2,000 for their release.

After receiving the money, Aguilar Jr. turned the aliens over to Rodriguez-Melchor to arrange smuggling the aliens further north. Instead, however, Rodriguez-Melchor sold the aliens to Renteria-Rivera for $200 each. Again, family members were called and told they must send additional monies to secure their release. The Renterias carried weapons and threatened to shoot the aliens if anyone tried to escape. Renteria helped pick up the money and then took the aliens to a parking lot in McAllen where they were supposed to sneak into the air dams of tractor-trailers.

Instead of doing so, three of the aliens turned themselves in to U.S. Border Patrol custody. On May 18, 2016, authorities executed three search warrants. At that time, they seized firearms from the Aguilar, Sanchez and Renteria residences. All of the defendants were eventually located and arrested.