HOUSTON (FOX 26) - The U.S. Attorney’s Office Southern District of Texas has announced that several alleged members and associates of the Southwest Cholos street gang are scheduled to appear in federal court on a variety of charges which include sex trafficking, drug trafficking, selling firearms, human smuggling and identity theft.
A federal grand jury returned the 37-count indictment on Thursday, Nov. 2, which was partially unsealed on Wednesday following a motion in federal court.
The following Houston residents were arrested on Tuesday and were scheduled to make their initial appearances before U.S. Magistrate Judge Nancy Johnson at 10 a.m. Wednesday:
- Giovani Alecio, 26, also known as Whiteboy
- Victor Javiel Gonzalez, 29
- Maria Angelica Moreno-Reyna, 51, also known as Patty
- Gabriela Gonzalez-Flores, 46, also known as Gabby
- Eddie Torres, 38, also known as Monterrey
- Jose Luis Moreno, 23, also known as Lucky
- Gilberto Espinoza Garcia, 49
- Hector Reyna, 26, also known as Pantera
- Jimmy Mejia Chavez, 33
Donna resident Grisel Salas, 34, also known as Cris, and Mission resident Jose Ruben Palomo-Martinez, 48, were also arrested.
Two other Houston residents, Erik Ivan Alvarez-Chavez, 39, also known as Casa, and Denis Amaya Calballero, 25, also known as Keiko, were named defendants and were already in custody on related charges. They are expected to make their appearances in federal court in the near future.
The following nine other people were charged but are not yet in custody:
- Houston resident Bianca Stephanie Reyna, 20, also known as Troubles
- Houston resident Claudia Soriano-Hernandez, 26
- Houston resident Juan Carlos Contreras Cervantes, 25
- Raul Moreno Reyna, 53, also known as Coney, 53
- William Alberto Lopez, 27
- Anadalit Duarte, 25, also known as Paola
- Walter Lopez, 26
Reyna, William Alberto Lopez, Anadalit Duarte and Walter Lopez are Houston residents believed to be in Mexico.
Donna residents Israel Juarez Sifuentes, 43, and Melissa Dominguez 50, also known as Missy, are classified as fugitives and warrants remain outstanding for their arrests. Anyone with information about Sifuentes and Dominguez is asked to contact the FBI Houston field office by phone at 713-693-5000.
All of the defendants are indicted in the criminal scheme as alleged members or affiliates of the Southwest Cholos. All are charged in varying counts to include multiple conspiracy counts; sex trafficking by force, fraud or coercion; sex trafficking of a minor by force, fraud or coercion; transportation to engage in prostitution; enticing or coercing another to travel in interstate commerce for prostitution; transportation of illegal aliens; importation of aliens for immoral purposes; possession with the intent to distribute heroin; possession with intent to distribute methamphetamines; illegal dealing of firearms; felon in possession of a firearm; illegal re-entry; false statements; and aggravated identity theft.
The defendants operated several brothels in apartments throughout Houston as well as in Mexico, according to the indictment. The primary location was the Carriage Way Apartment Complex on Dashwood in southwest Houston, which also served as home base of operations for drug and firearms trafficking, according to the allegations.
In the sex trafficking scheme, illegal aliens were allegedly promised they could work in a restaurant to pay off their smuggling debts. After arriving in Houston, however, victims were told they actually had to work as prostitutes in brothels the alleged gang members controlled. The indictment alleges the defendants engaged in numerous acts and threats of violence against the victims and their families whenever the women refused to work as prostitutes or failed to make enough money.
The indictment further alleges the defendants would tattoo their names or nicknames on the victims to identify them as their property and demonstrate control over them.
Authorities have identified at least six trafficking victims, the youngest of whom was 14. At the time of arrests, seven more victims were found in the brothels.
Some of the defendants also allegedly engaged in human smuggling separate from the sex trafficking scheme. The indictment alleges at least nine aliens have been identified as being smuggled through stash houses some of the defendants controlled in the Rio Grande Valley to locations in Houston. The smuggled aliens paid substantial sums, including two Chinese nationals who each paid more than $40,000, according to the charges. During the enforcement actions yesterday, 16 more smuggled aliens were discovered in area stash houses.
The indictment also alleges several counts of heroin and methamphetamine trafficking and the selling of numerous stolen firearms.
If convicted of sex trafficking, the defendants face a minimum of 15 years and up to life imprisonment. Those charged with the drug trafficking also face up to life with a minimum of 10 years as possible punishment. The human smuggling charges carry a maximum of 20 years imprisonment, while those convicted in the illegal trafficking of firearms face another five years imprisonment.
Soriano-Hernandez, Mejia-Chavez and Contreras-Cervantes were also indicted for illegally re-entering the United States following deportation for which they face up to two years imprisonment, while Javiel Gonzalez is also charged as a convicted felon in possession of a firearm and faces up to 10 years imprisonment.
Alvarez-Chavez also allegedly stole the identity of a Salvadoran man so he could obtain temporary protected status as a citizen of that country. If convicted, he faces a mandatory two years which must be served consecutively to any other prison term imposed.
The FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration, Harris County Sheriff’s Office, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations, Houston Police Department, Texas Anti-Gang Center and ICE’s Enforcement Removal Operations conducted the investigation as part of both the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force and the Human Trafficking Rescue Alliance (HTRA). The case is also an example of the coordination among law enforcement who are part of the Houston Law Enforcement Violent Crime Initiative announced in June 2017 which combines personnel and resources from numerous federal, state and local agencies.