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Ring leader who smuggled 9,000 illegal immigrants gets six years in prison

March 9, 2009 |  7:30 pm

The leader of the Three Franciscos, a notorious ring accused of transporting more than 9,000 illegal immigrants through Los Angeles and around the country, was sentenced to six years in federal prison Monday.

Federal officials called the organization the most prolific of its kind ever uncovered in L.A., collecting fees as high as $3,700 from family members of immigrants who were packed into cramped vans and safe houses.

“We estimated they were moving about 100 [immigrants] a week,” said Jennifer Silliman, deputy special agent in charge with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency in L.A. The group was known as the Three Franciscos because all three of the operators had the same first name. “They weren’t using the best vehicles. Not everyone had seat belts. A lot of times the vehicles were old, or they got in an accident” Silliman added. “They were essentially overloaded.”

On Monday, Francisco Andres-Francisco, 40, was sentenced in federal court in L.A. In November, he pleaded guilty to conspiracy to harbor, conceal and transport illegal immigrants. Another leader of the organization, Francisco Andres-Pedro, 36, was previously sentenced to 33 months in prison. But one of the men, Francisco Pedro-Francisco, 30, remains a fugitive.

Federal agents say Andres-Francisco was the main boss of the Three Franciscos. Like the other two, he hails from the town of Huehuetenango in Guatemala. Together they built a well-oiled organization that by conservative estimates made at least $9 million since 2005, transporting mainly Guatemalans and other Central Americans.

--Hector Becerra