For Immediate Release
Jury Convicts McAllen Man for Gunpoint Extortion of Migrants
McALLEN, Texas — A federal jury has convicted a 25-year-old man on multiple counts for hostage taking, smuggling and weapons charges, announced U.S. Attorney Alamdar S. Hamdani.
The jury deliberated for less than an hour before returning the guilty verdict on all counts against Heriberto Mendez-Lozano following a three-day trial.
During the trial, the jury heard evidence that on Sept. 29, 2022, Mendez-Lozano and others were engaged in smuggling migrants from near the Rio Grande River further into the United States.
On that date, the group was harboring five undocumented aliens. Instead of transporting the aliens further into the U.S., Mendez-Lozano and his co-conspirators held the aliens against their will at a location in Donna.
There, Mendez-Lozano and others brandished firearms, held guns to the heads and ribs of hostages, threatened the hostages and forced them to call family members to demand money for their release.
The investigation led law enforcement to the location in Donna where they arrested Mendez-Lozano who had a pending warrant for aggravated robbery, and a co-conspirator Lorenzo Campbell. Authorities also rescued the hostages from the scene.
U.S. District Judge Micaela Alvarez presided over the trial and set sentencing for Jan. 17, 2024. At that time, he faces life in a federal prison. Mendez-Lozano has been and will remain in custody pending that hearing.
Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) conducted the investigation with the assistance of Border Patrol (BP), U.S. Marshals Service, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and Hidalgo County Sherriff’s Office.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Colton Turner and Theodore Parran prosecuted the case as part of the Human Smuggling Prevention Program (HSPP). The primary goal of HSPP is to disrupt and dismantle human smuggling organizations on our Southwest Border through close cooperation with HSI, BP, Customs and Border Protection – Office of Field Operations and local law enforcement partners.