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12 people indicted in Texas border conspiracy scheme

Federal prosecutors unsealed an indictment against 12 people on Tuesday, accusing them of monopolizing the transmigrant forwarding industry along the Texas border with Mexico (pictured). File Photo by Yuri Gripas/UPI
Federal prosecutors unsealed an indictment against 12 people on Tuesday, accusing them of monopolizing the transmigrant forwarding industry along the Texas border with Mexico (pictured). File Photo by Yuri Gripas/UPI | License Photo

Dec. 6 (UPI) -- Federal prosecutors unsealed an indictment against 12 people Tuesday, accusing them of monopolizing the transmigrant forwarding industry along the Texas border with Mexico.

The 11-count indictment contends the 10 men and two women "conspired to fix prices and allocate the market for transmigrant services," according to the Justice Department.

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They are also accused of monopolizing the same market in the Los Indios, Texas, border region near Harlingen and Brownsville, Texas.

Both U.S. and Mexican citizens are named in the indictment.

The agencies are businesses that provide services to transmigrant clients, including helping those clients complete the customs paperwork required to export vehicles into Mexico.

The charges in front of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, stem from a little-used, 132-year-old law.

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The Sherman Antitrust Act is a federal statute that prohibits activities that restrict interstate commerce and competition in the marketplace. It outlaws any contract, conspiracy, or combination of business interests in restraint of foreign or interstate trade.

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The act was passed in 1890 by then-president Benjamin Harrison. American antitrust laws were relaxed under Franklin Roosevelt's "New Deal."

The indictment contends all 12 defendants engaged in price-fixing agreements and divided revenues among the co-conspirators.

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Any business owners refusing to pay were threatened with violence in retaliation. They also allegedly forced one transmigrant agency owner to pay more than $80,000 for operating outside of their centralized pool and failing to pay an extortion tax.

"As alleged, this criminal organization committed heinous acts of violence against those who would not participate in its illegal activities," Assistant Attorney General Kenneth Polite said in a statement.

Seven people named in the indictment were also charged with money laundering counts.

"The indictment charges that defendants monopolized an industry through horrific violence and threats of violence," Assistant Attorney General Jonathan Kanter said in a statement.

"The department will use all the tools at its disposal - including Section 2 of the Sherman Act - to target anticompetitive conduct that undermines our country's economic vitality and freedom."

The FBI and Department of Homeland Security are continuing to investigate the case.

Carlos Favian Martinez, 36, Marco Antonio Medina, 32, Rigoberto Brown, 38, Pedro Antonio Calvillo Hernandez, 47, Roberto Garcia Villareal, 56, Miguel Hipolito Caballero Aupart, 70, Sandra Guerra Medina, 68, and Mireya Miranda, 56, were named in the indictment unsealed Tuesday.

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