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3 indicted in illegal immigrant smuggling case

February 12, 2010 |  5:43 pm

Three men who allegedly guarded hundreds of smuggled Central and South American illegal immigrants at a “drop house” in Lynwood were indicted Friday by a federal grand jury.

Gustavo Sanchez-Lopez, 30; Diego Martinez-Gonzalez, 28; and Francisco Moreno-Lopez, 55, are accused of holding the immigrants until relatives could pay as much as $13,000, said Thom Mrozek, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office. The men claimed to be Mexican, but are believed to be from Guatemala, he said.

The suspects were arrested last month when authorities served a search warrant at a house on South Virginia Avenue. At the time, authorities found 37 illegal immigrants, but Mrozek said investigators think the men harbored as many as 336 during a two-month period.

The illegal immigrants allegedly were threatened with beatings or death if their relatives did not pay the smuggling fee quickly, Mrozek said.

According to the indictment, Martinez-Gonzalez and Sanchez-Lopez told female immigrants that they would be given blankets or jackets, or be allowed to shower, in exchange for sex.

If convicted, each man faces a maximum penalty of 60 years in federal prison.

--Hector Becerra