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Smugglers Who Held Cuban Nationals For Ransom Jailed

CaribWorldNews, MIAMI, FL, Tues. July 14, 2009: Five migrant smugglers from Miami will spend the next two and one-half to five years in federal prison for alien smuggling for ransom.

Nelson Martinez Almeida, 27, Rudivaldo Mojena, 29, Juliet Toledo Duartes, 32, Ricardo Mojena Velazquez, 31, and Lazaro Martinez Munoz, 45, were sentenced by U.S. District Judge Paul C. Huck after being found guilty on charges of conspiring to commit alien smuggling, and alien smuggling for the purpose of commercial advantage and private financial gain.

Almeida, Mojena, and Duartes were sentenced to 60 months imprisonment followed by three years of supervised release. Velazquez and Munoz were sentenced to 34 and 30 months imprisonment followed by three years of supervised release.

The defendants’ co-conspirators, Niovel Chirino Alvarez, 33, and Lazaro Martinez Padron, 21, were tried earlier and convicted of conspiring to commit alien smuggling and alien smuggling for profit for the purpose of commercial advantage and private financial gain amongst other charges. U.S. District Court Judge Donald L. Graham sentenced Chirino Alvarez to 60 months imprisonment and Martinez Padron to 63 months imprisonment followed by three years of supervised release.

According to the indictment and trial testimony, Almeida and Martinez Padron traveled to Cuba and loaded a vessel with numerous Cuban nationals. Mojena and Munoz then rendezvoused with Almeida and Martinez Padron’s vessel off the west coast of Florida and took aboard approximately half of the Cuban nationals.

ICE special agents received information that the Cuban nationals were being held by the smugglers and would not be released until payment of $10,000 per Cuban national was made. ICE agents established contact with the smugglers and a transaction was conducted in exchange for one of the Cuban nationals. At the scene, ICE special agents arrested Chirino Alvarez and Martinez Padron and took custody of eight Cuban nationals who were being held for ransom. Subsequently, the remaining five individuals listed above were arrested.