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  1. Homeland Security Investigations (HSI)
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  3. HSI El Paso Investigation Results in Nearly 22 Years in Prison for Kidnapping Resulting in Death

HSI El Paso Investigation Results in Nearly 22 Years in Prison for Kidnapping Resulting in Death

Release Date: April 25, 2024

EL PASO, Texas — An El Paso man was sentenced April 24 in prison for kidnapping resulting in death following an investigation by Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

The El Paso Police Department, the New Mexico State Police, the Texas Department of Public Safety and U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Border Patrol assisted with the investigation.

Armando Leonardo Moreno aka Cholo, 21, served as a soldier in a transnational criminal organization and conspired with other organization members on or around Sept. 13, 2021, to kidnap a subject from an El Paso stash house. The kidnappers drove the subject to another address, dragged him out of the vehicle and beat him in the front yard of the home before taking him inside and beating him further. On Sept. 16, 2021, the subject was found deceased in Las Cruces, New Mexico, with multiple gunshot and stab wounds, according to court documents.

Co-defendants Michelle Karen Avila, Ruben Pimentel and Ricardo Matthew Gutierrez were previously sentenced. Avila was sentenced to 60 months in prison, Pimentel was sentenced to 108 months, and Gutierrez received a 135-month sentence. A fourth defendant, Alberto Rodriguez, remains in federal custody and is scheduled to be sentenced May 1.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Sarah Valenzuela and Ian Hanna prosecuted the case.

The indictments and convictions of these defendants are the result of the coordinated efforts of Joint Task Force Alpha (JTFA). The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Texas is part of JTFA, which was established by Attorney General Merrick B. Garland in June 2021 to marshal the investigative and prosecutorial resources of the Department of Justice, in partnership with the Department of Homeland Security to strengthen the Justice Department’s efforts to combat the rise in prolific and dangerous smuggling emanating from Central America and impacting our border communities.

JTFA is comprised of detailees from U.S. attorneys’ offices along the southwest border, including the Southern District of Texas, the Western District of Texas, the District of New Mexico, the District of Arizona and the Southern District of California. Dedicated support is also provided by numerous components of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division that are part of JTFA, led by the Human Rights and Special Prosecutions Section and supported by the Office of Prosecutorial Development, Assistance and Training; the Narcotic and Dangerous Drug Section; the Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section; the Office of Enforcement Operations; the Office of International Affairs; and the Violent Crime and Racketeering Section.

JTFA also relies on substantial law enforcement investment from the Department of Homeland Security, the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Administration and other partners. To date, JTFA’s work has resulted in over 295 domestic and international arrests of leaders, organizers and significant facilitators of human smuggling; over 230 U.S. convictions; more than 170 significant jail sentences imposed; and forfeitures of substantial assets.

HSI El Paso aggressively investigates the serious public safety threat posed by human smuggling organizations and their reckless disregard for the health and safety of the people they exploit. To report suspicious smuggling activity, call 1-877-4-HSI-TIP.

Last Updated: 04/26/2024
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