Feds help take down human smuggling ring in Guatemala, DOJ officials say

Four men await extradition to US; if convicted, they could face life in prison

SAN ANTONIO – A historical international takedown led by the US Department of Justice took place in Guatemala on Tuesday. Four Guatemalan nationals were indicted by Joint Task Force Alpha for their alleged connection to a human smuggling ring.

The initial announcement was made on Twitter by the Guatemalan government.

“Joint Task Force Alpha was created to investigate and prosecute the international networks responsible for dangerous and prolific human smuggling activities that exploit and victimize migrants,” Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite, Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division said. “These indictments demonstrate the Department of Justice’s commitment to holding accountable criminal organizations that prey upon vulnerable people for profit.”

On Tuesday, Guatemalan authorities executed multiple search warrants that resulted in the arrests of 19 people, including four US fugitives identified as leaders of the human smuggling ring known as “Alfa Siete”. The men are identified as Felipe Diego Alonzo, aka “Siete,” 38; Nesly Norberto Martinez Gomez, aka “Canche,” 37; Lopez Mateo Mateo, aka “Bud Light,” 42; and Juan Gutierrez Castro, aka “Andres,” 45.

“These indictments demonstrate that the department’s commitment is center,” Polite said. “We are holding accountable criminal organizations that prey upon vulnerable people for profit. So, let me be clear. The message to human smugglers is this, ‘You will be held accountable for your dangerous and often lethal criminality.’”

The men were indicted for the following counts: Conspiracy to Bring an Alien to the US Resulting in Death, Bringing an Alien to the US Resulting in Death, Conspiracy to Bring an Alien to the US for Financial Gain, and Conspiracy to Encourage and Induce an Alien to Come to the US for Financial Gain.

“As repeatedly demonstrated, smugglers do not care whether those they conduct business with live or die, only that the smuggler gets paid,” said Kristy Callahan, Executive Assistant US Attorney.

According to court filings, the migrant victim’s family paid Alonzo’s criminal organization approximately $10,000 to be smuggled into the US. She was guided through the desert, died and left on the side of a country road in Crane County, Texas.

“In April of 2021, HSI Midland received information from HSI Guatemala concerning the potential death of a female Guatemalan national in the Midland-Odessa area,” said Francisco Burrola, special agent in-charge for Homeland Security Investigations. “This person was identified and matched that of the information provided by HSA Guatemala. The investigation revealed that the deceased person appeared to be ill or dehydrated and had to be carried into a stash house in Odessa, where she subsequently died.”

“Let me say that our deepest condolences go out to this young woman’s family,” Polite said. “Our team has been in contact with her family and they will continue to have our support.”

The exact number of migrants smuggled by “Alfa Siete” is still under investigation. The four men will be extradited to the US within the next four to six months, according to Polite.

The lead charge of Conspiracy to Bring an Alien to the US Resulting in Death carries a maximum penalty of life in prison with possible fines up to $250,000.

The operation also lead to the seizure of cash, firearms and 10 vehicles.

You can view the federal indictments documents below:

About the Authors:

Alicia Barrera is a KSAT 12 News reporter and anchor. She is also a co-host of the streaming show KSAT News Now. Alicia is a first-generation Mexican-American, fluent in both Spanish and English with a bachelor's degree from Our Lady of the Lake University. She enjoys reading books, traveling solo across Mexico and spending time with family.