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Coyote who confined immigrants for ransom sentenced to 13 years

Coyote who confined immigrants for ransom sentenced to 13 years

  • Updated

The last of three people accused of smuggling undocumented Mexican nationals into Arizona, then holding them for ransom, was sentenced Wednesday.

Oscar Monroy-Reyes, 21, of Mazatlan, Sinaloa, Mexico, was sentenced to 13 years in federal prison by U.S. District Judge Frank R. Zapata. Monroy-Reyes pleaded guilty on Aug. 24, 2011, to hostage-taking in a March 2010 Tucson incident.

Two accomplices previously were sentenced. In September 2010, Elsa Carillo-Banuelos was given seven years and three months in federal prison. In April, 2011, Jose Luis Bautista-Barajas was sentenced to a term of about 10 years.

All three also were sentenced to five years of supervised release after their prison terms.

"When they are released from federal prison, they will be deported to Mexico. They would not be supervised while in Mexico," said Assistant U.S. Attorney Bill C. Solomon. "One of the conditions of supervised release, however, is that they not violate any federal, state, or local law.

"Once deported, if they return to the United States without authorization, that would be a violation of federal law. At that point, they could be prosecuted for illegal re-entry after deportation, their supervised release could be revoked for having violated federal law and they could be ordered to serve additional prison time on the supervised release violation."

A fourth suspect, a 17-year-old boy, was returned to Mexico shortly after the incident.

The smugglers were arrested March 24, 2010 after Pima County sheriff's deputies discovered a drop house near West Ina Road and North Camino de la Tierra on the northwest side where half a dozen undocumented immigrants had been held hostage for several days, according to documents from U.S. District Court.

Deputies were alerted to the house after receiving a 911 call from a neighbor reporting that an immigrant who had escaped was at her door asking to come in and hide from his captors. Almost simultaneously deputies got a call from another neighbor about a second man who escaped and was seeking refuge.

"Deputies determined that both individuals had been held hostage for several days at a nearby home and that both were able to escape when one of the hostage takers left a handgun unattended to use the bathroom," according to the U.S. Justice Department.

As deputies were driving the immigrants back to the drop house, they spotted two of their captors - Bautista-Barajas and Elsa Carillo-Banuelos - walking away from the house. After receiving a third 911 call, deputies found Monroy-Reyes hiding under a boat in the back yard of another nearby residence.

Inside the drop house deputies found four more men being held hostage, one of whom was injured when a captor pistol whipped him.

The hostages, all illegal immigrants, had arranged to be smuggled into the U.S. for fees of about $1,600 each. Once they crossed the border, the smugglers increased the fees to $3,500 apiece. The hostages were being held until their family members could pay the increased fees, court documents stated.

"They were kept in a locked room and had their shoes, belts and identification taken away from them. Each of the hostages identified Monroy-Reyes as having led the group that was holding them hostage by organizing the time when calls were made by the victims to family members and by threatening the victims if the ransom was not paid," according to the Justice Department.

Contact reporter Kimberly Matas at or at 573-4191.

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