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Immigrant woman and children rescued from purported Zetas smugglers during standoff

December 21, 2018

Federal officials are investigating an immigrant smuggling case in San Antonio in which a woman and her children were held captive at an East Side home by men allegedly associated with the now-splintered Zetas cartel.

The woman and her two children were rescued following a standoff on Tuesday at the home in the 700 block of South New Braunfels. After monitoring the home much of the day, the San Antonio Police Department dispatched a SWAT team and arrested three men, whom federal authorities charged Wednesday with immigrant harboring charges.

Despite the claims of ties to the Zetas, a spokeswoman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said Thursday that “federal officials are not confirming that it’s connected to any criminal group.”

A federal court-filed affidavit said the SAPD Special Victims Unit was notified after the woman’s ex-husband reported the crime.

Officials said the man told them the woman and children were deported earlier in December after a first attempt to enter the country.

The man said that after being deported, his ex-wife was told by Zeta gang members they could get her and her children back into the United States for $12,000. The woman and children were smuggled and held in stash houses until the money was paid by her ex-husband on Dec. 14.

According to the affidavit, the victims were then brought to San Antonio and held captive. The man told police the Zetas demanded an additional $12,000 for their release.

With the information and cell phone numbers provided by the man, police tracked down the home where the mother and children were held.

A pickup left the home Tuesday with the two children and mother, along with two suspects, the affidavit said. Police followed the truck, rescued the victims and arrested the two men, identified as Jose Luciano Rocha Ortiz and Juventino Hernandez Cruz.

Rocha and Hernandez admitted to being Mexican citizens in the country illegally, and that they were ordered by an “Eddie” to hold the victim and her children captive until fees were completely paid. Rocha told investigators that “Eddie” is with the Zetas.

The affidavit said police served a search warrant at the home, and found another man, Fermin Cordero-Chavez and another migrant.

Cordero-Chavez told authorities he was sent to San Antonio from Nuevo Laredo to operate the stash house. He said he was gong to be paid $700 a week to do so and admitted participating in preventing the victims from leaving the home.

The three suspects appeared in federal court late Wednesday, and U.S. Magistrate Judge Henry Bemporad ordered them detained for hearings in the next two weeks. However, since they are suspected of having no legal status, they are likely to waive bail hearings and remain in jail.

According to court records, the mother may be a witness in the case and would remain in the country with her children until a trial is held.

Guillermo Contreras covers federal court and immigration news in the San Antonio and Bexar County area. Read him on our free site, mySA.com, and on our subscriber site, ExpressNews.com. | gcontreras@express-news.net | Twitter: @gmaninfedland

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