Leader of Phoenix-based human smuggling ring gets 30 months in prison

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By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman

PHOENIX – The leader of a Phoenix-based human smuggling ring was sentenced to 30 months in federal prison followed by three years of supervised release.

Javier Rito-Martinez, 37, of Mexico, pleaded guilty Jan. 15 to felony conspiracy to transport and harbor illegal immigrants.

Rito-Martinez was sentenced April 7 following an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

According to court documents, between October 2011 and February 2013, Rito-Martinez served as the leader of a smuggling ring that utilized a network of foot guides, drivers and drop houses to smuggle individuals across the Arizona-Mexico border, through the Tohono O'odham Nation to the Phoenix metro area. From Phoenix, they were transported to destinations throughout the United States.

HSI special agents in Sells, Ariz., said they discovered that Rito-Martinez's operation smuggled hundreds of illegal immigrants each month into the United States, charging each individual between $2,500 and $3,000 in smuggling fees.