Human smuggler with Phoenix ties gets 42 years in prison

Victor Castillo-Estobar.

A man considered by prosecutors to be a significant player in a human smuggling organization with ties to the Phoenix area was sentenced to 42 years in prison on Tuesday, officials said.

Victor Castillo-Estobar, 26, of Mexico, was arrested on Feb. 2, 2009, after a nine-month investigation into the organization by IIMPACT, a multi-agency project focused on human smuggling operations, the Arizona Department of Public Safety said on Wednesday. The department said Castillo-Estobar was a major part of the organization.

Officials said he was accused of renting out houses in Phoenix to use as drophouses. DPS served search warrants at five of these houses, and two other homes that were used Castillo-Estobar’s residences.

He was also accused of taking kidnapped immigrants to different houses, directed guards within the drophouses and ran the day-to-day operations of the organization, DPS officials said. The organization would kidnap and hold immigrants for ransom.

Eleven others were arrested on suspicion of being involved in the same organization, officials said. Six of them were sentenced to prison terms of three to 11 years. Three received three years of probation and the remaining two were set to be sentenced in June.

Castillo-Estobar was convicted in March on charges of participation in or assisting a criminal syndicate, a Class 2 felony, the department said.

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