Violent smugglers now getting more jail time than ever

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PHOENIX – Harsh sentences are the latest in a long list of strategies being used to deter human smuggling.

Smugglers used to get a few years in prison at the most but now investigators say things are changing and if they can prove the smugglers were violent, they are putting them behind bars for at least seven to 15 years and that is after a plea deal. One smuggler was just sentenced to 42 years behind bars.

Fred Zumbo, a captain with the Arizona Department of Public Safety, took 3TV’s Marissa Wingate for a ride-along.
He explains, “We're just seeing the numbers increasing. I'm a captain…and I'm assigned to the IImpact Task Force."

Zumbo tells 3TV the number of illegal immigrant drop houses in Phoenix is not the only thing that is increasing. Capt. Zumbo says, “We're getting some heavy, heavy prison sentences."

Victor Castillo Escobar, 26, was reportedly running up to nine drop houses in Phoenix. Capt. Zumbo explains, “He would make phone calls to victims’ families and he would be torturing the victims on the phone as they are basically begging for their lives." Escobar was sentenced to 42 years in prison.

Capt. Zumbo says, “What that means is that person is off the street, he's gonna be in the Department of Corrections. He's not going to get to go back to Mexico and go back and forth across the border. He's going to be spending 42 years in the Department of Corrections."

His counterparts will be spending several years there in prison, too. One man got 11 years and another four men received a sentence of seven years behind bars.

All for allegedly mistreating the illegal immigrants they were smuggling.

Capt. Zumbo explains, “The sanitary conditions are horrible, a lot of times there's no water or running water or bathroom facilities in this place so they urinate and defecate in buckets, it's really, you wouldn't treat an animal that way, much less a human being."

Zumbo says he hopes their convictions will serve as examples. “They need to go to prison for a long time and a message needs to be sent."

The IImpact team hopes the tougher sentences in Arizona will not just cause smugglers to go through other states, they are hoping other states will also give smugglers harsher sentences as well.