Two men charged with smuggling people across the U.S./Canada border


Two men suspected of smuggling people across the U.S./Canada border using freight trains made their first appearances in U.S. District Court in Seattle on May 24.

Jesus Ortiz-Plata, 45, of Independence, Oregon, and Juan Pablo Cuellar-Medina, 35, of Everett, were arrested along with three non-U.S. citizens on May 23 following an investigation by Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Washington.

In late 2022, U.S. Border Patrol and investigators started seeing Ortiz-Plata’s phone number as a contact number for people illegally crossing the border. One of the cases where Ortiz-Plata’s number appeared included the August 31, 2023 apprehension of 29 people who tried illegally entering the U.S. on a southbound train from Canada.

According to federal court records, Ortiz-Plata went by the name “Chuy” and was thought to transport people illegally from the Blaine and Sumas area to Oregon and California.

On May 23, investigators GPS tracked Ortiz-Plata’s phone and watched him travel from Oregon to Seattle, where he was then followed to Cuellar-Medina’s apartment in Everett.

Ortiz-Plata was arrested after he left the apartment with three men who were not U.S. citizens. Two of the men had allegedly crossed the U.S./Canada border in a freight train car, while one said he had walked across the border, according to federal court records. One of the people said Cuellar-Medina had picked him up after crossing.

The two men who had crossed by train had paid $2,000 each for help getting to Portland, Oregon, according to court records. The men were reportedly not provided food or water while they were in Everett.

The five people were transported to the HSI office in Ferndale for questioning and HSI booked Ortiz-Plata and Cuellar-Medina into Whatcom County Jail around 9 p.m. May 23. They were transported to federal custody early the next morning.

Ortiz-Plata and Cuellar-Medina were charged with conspiracy to commit illegal transportation of a non-citizen for private financial gain, which is punishable by up to 10 years in prison and $250,000. 


No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here