MIAMI - On January 28, 2020, Tomas Vale Valdivia, 45, a Cuban national who was living in Isla Mujeres, Mexico, was sentenced to 57 months in prison by U.S. District Kathleen M. Williams in Miami, Florida for his participation in a for-profit alien smuggling conspiracy that transported Cuban nationals to Mexico and then into the United States.
Ariana Fajardo Orshan, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Anthony Salisbury, Special Agent in Charge of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s, Homeland Security Investigations (ICE-HSI) Miami Field Office, and George L. Piro, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Miami Field Office made the announcement.
According to the court record, including the agreed upon factual proffer and evidence presented during the sentencing hearing, beginning at least as early as October 2013, and continuing through at least July 2018, a group of individuals, including Vale Valdivia and additional unnamed associates, were members of an alien smuggling conspiracy operating in Miami, Florida, Mexico, the Dominican Republic, and Haiti. Vale Valdivia admitted to being the leader and organizer of the alien smuggling conspiracy, which included five or more participants. Through this conspiracy in excess of 100 migrants were smuggled from Cuba to Mexico and then ultimately to the border of the United States. Generally, the migrants were charged approximately $10,000. Vale Valdivia admitted to knowing that the migrants coming to, entry, and residence in the United States was a violation of law. Vale Valdivia further admitted that this alien smuggling conspiracy, at times, smuggled aliens in a manner that intentionally or recklessly created a substantial risk of death or serious bodily injury to another person. For example, at times vessels used to smuggle migrants were overloaded or were used during foul weather so as to risk capsizing. In addition to smuggling migrants, Vale Valdivia smuggled baseball players from Cuba to the United States. Vale Valdivia also admitted to being involved in a conspiracy that stole engines in the United States and then shipped the engines through a freight forwarding company in Miami to Mexico to be used to further the alien smuggling conspiracy.
This prosecution is the result of the ongoing efforts of the Operation Sisyphus Task Force, a multi-agency partnership to combat Caribbean based organized crime that 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.
If you believe you are a victim of migrant coercion or extortion or know someone who is, you are encouraged to call 1-866-347-2423 or visit https://www.ice.gov/tipline. The toll-free phone number is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Help is available in English, Spanish, and additional languages.
U.S. Attorney Fajardo Orshan commended the investigative efforts of the ICE-HSI, FBI, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), and U.S. Coast Guard Investigative Service (CGIS), Southeast Region in this matter. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys J. Mackenzie Duane and Ignacio J. Vázquez, Jr. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Adrienne Rosen and Annika Miranda are assigned to the asset forfeiture aspects of the case.
Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Southern District of Florida at www.flsd.uscourts.gov or at http://pacer.flsd.uscourts.gov.