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Don Juan Motel owner, manager face trial

10 others plead guilty

August 15, 2001|By MARIO RENTERÍA, Staff Writer

CALEXICO — Several people have been convicted in connection with a smuggling ring allegedly run out of the Don Juan Motel at 322 E. 4th St. here, but three others have pleaded not guilty and will face trial starting Nov. 6 in federal district court in San Diego.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Annie Gutierrez said Don Juan Motel owner Richard Graham, 68, Don Juan Motel manager Sylvia Tamayo, 37, and Thomas Castro, 37, of Los Angeles, the three defendants going to trial, face a minimum of five years in prison if found guilty.

Ten other people have pleaded guilty to charges that include felony counts of transporting illegal immigrants, harboring, conspiracy and bringing illegal immigrants into the U.S. Possible sentences for those 10 range from probation to 46 months in prison. Rosa Jimenez Cervantez, 46, of Brawley received a sentence of 46 months in prison, said Gutierrez.

The arrests came Nov. 20 after a two-year investigation by the U.S. Border Patrol Los Angeles district and the U.S. Attorney's Office.

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Border Patrol agents went simultaneously to the motel and to an apartment at 185 D St. in Brawley and houses in Indio and Los Angeles about 6 a.m. Nov. 20 to serve search warrants and arrest the alleged smugglers.

The 10 warrants came after field agents noticed suspicious activity around the motel for about two years before the arrests.

Cervantez was arrested in the Brawley apartment with the help of Brawley police. Border Patrol agents found weapons and narcotics at the home.

Agents from Los Angeles, San Diego, Indio and Riverside Border Patrol stations, along with agents from the state Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement and the Coachella Valley Task Force, served the search warrants in Indio and Los Angeles.

Those arrested allegedly brought illegal immigrants on inner tubes and ropes across the All-American Canal, the New River or the Alamo River, then brought the immigrants to the Don Juan Motel before delivering the immigrants to Brawley, Indio and Los Angeles.

Gutierrez said Graham, Tamayo and Castro are out of jail on bail and if Graham is found guilty, his motel will be seized by the federal government because it was used for illegal activities. The motel is still in operation.

Staff Writer Mario Rentería can be reached at 337-3435.

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