EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – One of the men arrested in connection with a stash house in Sunland Park, New Mexico, where migrants allegedly were being kept under threats has pleaded guilty in U.S. federal court to conspiracy charges.
Frank Castorena was one of five men arrested by Homeland Security Investigations agents who raided two contiguous properties in Sunland Park where several migrants were under armed watch. The agents learned about the location on Calle Carrosel after U.S. Border Patrol agents encountered two groups of migrants who said they “escaped” from the property, according to court records.
Castorena allegedly assisted in harboring unauthorized migrants by ensuring they remained inside the property. Court records show he pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Las Cruces last week to one count of “conspiracy to harbor illegal aliens.”
The charge carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. But in exchange for the plea, the U.S. Attorney’s Office is not bringing additional charges against Castorena and is recommending a maximum incarceration of eight to 14 months, court records show.
The defendant agreed to waive his right to appeal once the sentence is passed and stated he is, in fact, guilty of the offense charged, according to court records. Castorena also agrees to forfeit three firearms (a pistol, an AR-15 rifle and a 12-gauge shotgun) and ammunition found at the stash house, and to pay a special court assessment of $100.
Other defendants in the pending case include Saul Castorena, Steven Castorena, Jose Torres Chairez and Jose Barrios Mesa.
Sunland Park, just across the state line from El Paso, Texas, in the past few years has become a hotbed for migrant smuggling activity and the site of medical emergencies involving injured and deceased migrants.