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Suspected Alien Smuggler and His Three U.S.-Based Adult Children Charged in Conspiracy

Assistant U. S. Attorneys Timothy D. Coughlin (619) 546-6768 and Victor P. White 619 546-8439

NEWS RELEASE SUMMARY – May 17, 2019

SAN DIEGO – Luis Antonio Mendez-Brahan of Tijuana and his three California-based adult children were indicted by a federal grand jury for participating in a family-operated alien smuggling organization.

Mendez-Brahan and his children – Christopher Mendez, Wendy Monserrath Mendez and Nancy Jacqueline Suarez – are all charged with one count of Conspiracy to Bring in Illegal Aliens for Financial Gain, to Transport Illegal Aliens and to Conduct Financial Transactions with Proceeds of Specified Unlawful Activity. The father is also charged with five counts of Bringing in Aliens for Financial Gain.

Mendez-Brahan resides in Mexico and remains at large. His children were taken into custody yesterday at their homes in Wasco, California near Bakersfield and Madera, California near Fresno. All made their first appearances in federal court today.

According to the indictment, Mendez-Brahan was the leader of the smuggling organization for almost a decade and was responsible for smuggling hundreds of illegal aliens into the United States. The Mendez-Brahan organization allegedly operated in an area east of the Tecate Port of Entry and used an ever-changing cadre of spotters, guides and drivers to facilitate the smuggling organization’s criminal activities. The indictment alleges that Mendez-Brahan charged between $7,000 and $8,500 for each alien he arranged to be smuggled into the United States.

According to the indictment, the defendants used money service businesses such as Western Union and Money Gram to move money from the U.S. to Mexico. Border Patrol investigators tracked financial transactions conducted by Mendez-Brahan’s children in the United States to money service businesses located in Tijuana and ultimately, to Luis Antonio Mendez-Brahan. The three Mendez-Brahan children used family members in Mexico and the U.S. to send and receive their ill-gotten smuggling proceeds.

This case is the result of ongoing efforts by the United States Border Patrol –San Diego Sector to dismantle active transnational criminal organizations involved in alien smuggling along the U.S.-Mexico border in the Southern District of California.

DEFENDANTS                                            Case Number 19cr1570-JLS                       

Luis Antonio Mendez-Brahan                                    Age: 55                       Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico

Christopher Mendez                                       Age: 28                       Wasco, California

Wendy Monserrath Mendez                           Age: 24                       Wasco, California

Nancy Jacqueline Suarez                                Age: 31                       Madera, California

SUMMARY OF CHARGES

Count 1 (All Defendants) – Conspiracy to Bring in Illegal Aliens for Financial Gain; to Transport Illegal Aliens and to Conduct Financial Transactions with Proceeds of Specified Unlawful Activity – Title 18, U.S.C., Section 371 and Title 18 U.S.C. Section 2 –Aiding and Abetting.

Maximum penalty: Five (5) years’ imprisonment and $250,000 fine

Counts 2-6 (Luis Antonio Mendez-Brahan) – Bringing in Aliens for Financial Gain: – Title 8, U.S.C., Section 1324(a)(2)(B)(ii) and Title 18, U.S.C., Section 2 –  Aiding and Abetting.

Maximum penalty: Each count carries a mandatory minimum term of imprisonment of three (3) years and a maximum of ten (10) years for the first or second violation.  Any additional violations carry a mandatory minimum term of imprisonment of five (5) years and a maximum of fifteen (15) years,

AGENCY

United States Border Patrol

San Diego Sector/El Cajon Station Intelligence Team

United States Border Patrol -BORTAC – Special Operations Division

*The charges and allegations contained in an indictment or complaint are merely accusations, and the defendants are considered innocent unless and until proven guilty.

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