Men who held immigrants in their underwear at stash house plead guilty

Ismael Benavidez, Jesus Martinez Cerda arrested July 23


SAN ANTONIO – Two men accused of holding immigrants wearing nothing but underwear in a stash house have pleaded guilty to charges of bringing in and harboring aliens.

Ismael Benavidez and Jesus Martinez-Cerda were arrested July 23 after Homeland Security Investigations and the Department of Homeland Security went to a home on the 100 block of Westhaven Place and found 11 immigrants inside. The immigrants -- all men -- said they were stripped of most of their clothing to keep them from escaping.

READ MORE: Immigrants wearing only underwear found inside stash house

The raid happened the same day a tractor-trailer was found in a Walmart parking lot, loaded with illegal immigrants. Ten of those immigrants died and more than two dozen suffered heat-related ailments. The cases were not related.

An affidavit said Martinez was in the home with the immigrants. Like them, he was only wearing his underwear. Martinez said that was because "his clothes were in the washer." One immigrant told investigators Martinez did that "to blend in as an undocumented alien."

Martinez told investigators he entered the United States illegally four years ago. He said he was responsible for feeding the immigrants and arranging for payment of smuggling fees for those kept in the home.

Benavidez said Martinez paid him $200 per week to look after the immigrants.

RELATED: 11 'illegal aliens' found at west side stash house, 2 facing smuggling charges

One immigrant told investigators he illegally entered the United States from Mexico around July 16. He said his family paid $3,500 in smuggling fees and that he still owed $2,500 in smuggling fees. He said Martinez picked him up, along with eight other immigrants, from a parking lot and drove them to the home.

Martinez is due in court for sentencing Nov. 27. Benavidez is expected to be sentenced Dec. 4. Both face up to 10 years in prison, three years supervised release and a $250,000 fine.