A Guatemalan man who led a Little Rock-based ring that smuggled hundreds of immigrants into the United States from Mexico in 2012 and 2013 has been sentenced to nearly five years in prison.
The U.S. Attorney's Office for Arizona says Rony Abimael Gonzales-Herrera, 37, was sentenced Wednesday by a federal judge in Phoenix to 57 months in prison.
Gonzales-Herrera was arrested May 13, 2013, in Little Rock, where special agents also seized four cell phones he used to contact smugglers and arrange payments with the immigrants' families, according to a statement from the Department of Homeland Security. He pleaded guilty Jan. 9 to conspiracy to transport and harbor illegal immigrants.
Court documents show that the organization led by Gonzales-Herrera smuggled at least 827 immigrants into the U.S. from Mexico between 2012 and 2013.
Prosecutors say the ring used multiple stash houses in the Phoenix area as a way station for people being smuggled. Those houses included one discovered in January 2013 with more than 40 immigrants in the country illegally.
The ring also coordinated the transportation of illegal immigrants in the United States.
The investigation was conducted by special agents in Little Rock and Phoenix with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigations.
Additional information for this story was contribtued by Arkansas Online.