EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – Two men who terrorized migrants under their care and demanded money from relatives for their release have been sentenced in El Paso federal court for hostage-taking.

Carlos Villa Miranda, a.k.a. “Negro,” and Enrique Quiroz Jr., a.k.a. “Kike,” were part of a human smuggling organization in El Paso and Las Cruces, New Mexico, that harbored undocumented citizens of Honduras and El Salvador and engaged in kidnap-for-ransom, according to court documents.

Villa, 42, of Juarez, Mexico, received a 12-year prison sentence last week while Enrique Quiroz Jr., 50, of El Paso, got 16 years and eight months for his crimes, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said Tuesday in a statement.

Federal officials were on to the two men after receiving information from relatives of the kidnap victims, who told them family members were being held against their will possibly in Las Cruces. Another person also contacted Homeland Security Investigations agents about a relative being kept hostage in El Paso. Both complainants said they received telephone calls from the hostage-takers telling them their family members “would be murdered” if they did not pay for their release, court documents state.

HSI agents tracked telephone calls to an address on Emerson Street in El Paso’s Lower Valley. On Dec. 2, 2020, they knocked on the door and met Quiroz, who consented to let them search his apartment.

The agents found eight migrants locked inside a bedroom. They told agents Quiroz told them to tell their families to pay the ransoms and threatened to kill them if they ever spoke to police. Villa also made threats against the migrants, on at least one occasion brandishing a butcher knife, court documents show.

The U.S. Border Patrol picked up Villa two days later during a human smuggling attempt at an Interstate 10 highway checkpoint near Las Cruces.

“These human smuggling organizations are incredibly dangerous and prove that they value their pursuit of money and power through unlawful means far more than the lives of their trafficking victims,” said U.S. Attorney Jaime Esparza of the Western District of Texas.

HSI Special Agent in Charge in El Paso Francisco B. Burrola said the agency will continue to go after criminals who exploit migrants.

“These sentences show the grave consequences human smugglers face when they exploit people in such a ruthless way,” he said. “HSI is vehemently committed to using its ample authority to identify, investigate and arrest criminals who prey on the vulnerabilities of their human cargo with threats and acts of violence.”