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A 25-year-old McAllen man has been convicted by a federal jury on multiple counts of hostage taking, smuggling and weapon charges, according to a news release from the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Texas.
Following a three-day trial, the federal jury deliberated for less than an hour before returning the guilty verdict on all counts against Heriberto Mendez-Lozano.
The jury heard evidence during the trial that on Sept. 29, 2022, Mendez-Lozano and others were engaged in smuggling people from near the Rio Grande further into the United States, according to the release.
It was on that date that Mendez-Lozano and his co-conspirators held five people being smuggled against their will at a location in Donna.
“There, Mendez-Lozano and others brandished firearms, held guns to the heads and ribs of hostages and forced them to call family members to demand money for their release,” the release said.
An investigation led law enforcement to the location in Donna where Mendez-Lozano, who had a pending warrant for aggravated robbery, and co-conspirator Lorenzo Campbell were arrested.
The hostages at the scene were then rescued by law enforcement.
U.S. District Judge Micaela Alvarez has set Mendez-Lozano’s sentencing for January.
He faces up to life in federal prison and will remain in custody pending that hearing.
Campbell is also scheduled to appear before Alvarez for his sentencing next week.