MIAMI, FL. – Two men have made their initial appearances in the Southern District of Florida on charges that they participated in an alien smuggling ring that involved kidnapping and torturing Cuban nationals and extorting victims’ family members for money.
Ariana Fajardo Orshan, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, George L. Piro, Special Agent in Charge, FBI’s Miami Field Office, and Anthony Salisbury, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s, Homeland Security Investigations (ICE-HSI) Miami Field Office, made the announcement.
The criminal complaint affidavits filed in the Southern District of Florida against Reynaldo Marquez Crespo, 41, and Jancer Sergio Ramos Valdes, 33, allege the following: Defendants tricked their victims into believing that they were going to smuggle them from Cuba into the United States. Instead, Crespo, Valdes, and their co-conspirators transported the victims by boat to Merida, Mexico, locked them in a house, and held them captive for ransom. Crespo, Valdes, and others commanded each victim to provide contact information for a family member who could pay a $10,000 ransom. The men contacted the victims’ relatives, some of whom were located in Miami, and threatened to torture, starve, and kill the victims if the relatives refused to pay. If a victim’s relative was able to pay the ransom, Crespo, Valdes, and others released the victim and sent that person by bus to the Mexican-United States border with instructions to seek political asylum. When victims’ relatives could not pay, those migrants were beaten, threatened with knives and firearms, and shocked with stun guns, according to the complaint affidavits.
Valdes was arrested in Connecticut, where a federal magistrate judge ordered him detained pending trial. Crespo was arrested in Texas. Both defendants were brought to Miami to face their charges. Yesterday, they made their initial appearances in the Southern District of Florida before U.S. Magistrate Judge Jonathan Goodman. Crespo’s pretrial detention hearing is set for September 28, 2020, at 1:00 p.m., in federal magistrate court in Miami.
These charges are the result of ongoing efforts of the Operation Sisyphus Task Force, a multi-agency partnership established by the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) Priority Transnational Organized Crime Program. The Operation Sisyphus Task Force was formed to combat Caribbean based organized crime and includes the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida, FBI Miami and HSI Miami. In recent years, the Operation Sisyphus Task Force has targeted organizations utilizing coercion and extortion to compel migrants and their families to make payments for the release of loved ones.
Operation Sisyphus is part of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) investigation. The principal mission of the OCDETF program is to identify, disrupt, and dismantle the highest-level drug traffickers, money launderers, and other priority transnational criminal organizations that threaten the citizens of the United States using a prosecutor-led, intelligence driven, multi-agency approach to combat transnational organized crime. The OCDETF program facilitates complex, joint operations by focusing its partner agencies on priority targets, by managing and coordinating multi-agency efforts, and by leveraging intelligence across multiple investigative platforms.
FBI Miami and HSI Miami investigated this matter. Assistant United States Attorney Quinshawna Landon is prosecuting the case. Assistant United States Attorneys Adrienne Rosen and Annika Miranda are handling asset forfeiture.
If you believe you are a victim of migrant coercion or extortion or know someone who is, you are encouraged to call 1-800-CALLFBI (225-5324). You may also call 1-866-347-2423 or visit https://www.ice.gov/tipline. Help is available in English, Spanish, and additional languages.
A criminal complaint is an accusation and the statements it contains and referred to here are allegations. A defendant is presumed innocent unless and until found guilty.
You may find related court documents and information on the website of the District Court for the Southern District of Florida at www.flsd.uscourts.gov or on http://pacer.flsd.uscourts.gov, under case nos. 20-mj-3346 and 20-mj-3347.