3 Texas men convicted of conspiring and harboring illegal aliens

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas - A federal jury on Monday convicted three Texas men of conspiring to harbor illegal aliens while constructing new student housing at Texas A&M University's Kingsville campus. The verdict was announced by U.S. Attorney Tim Johnson, Southern District of Texas; this case was investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection's (CBP) Border Patrol.

William Holtzapfel, 53, Robert "Spyder" Wilson, 50, both of Houston, and Edgar Martinez, 33, of Hidalgo, Texas, were all convicted of conspiring to and harboring illegal aliens. During the trial, which began Oct. 7, the jury heard testimony from various law enforcement officers and two citizens of Argentina illegally present in the United States.

The Argentinean witnesses testified about working for Martinez, owner of EDCO Electric, a subcontractor hired by Integrated Electrical Services Inc. (IES), an electrical and communications firm that employs about 1,200 people nationwide. Holtzapfel and Wilson were employees of IES, which was involved in constructing new student housing on Texas A&M's Kingsville campus.

The Argentinean witnesses testified they lived in Holtzapfel's apartment in Kingsville from March through June 2009, and that at any given time there were up to nine other illegal aliens living with them in the three-bedroom apartment. They were all employed at the campus worksite primarily performing electrical work.

One of the Argentineans testified he was responsible for recording the amount of work performed by the aliens at the Kingsville worksite, and he presented that information to Holtzapfel. In turn, Holtzapfel approved or amended the report sent to IES. After receiving the report, IES issued a check to Martinez. Martinez kept a portion of the payment and deposited the remainder into the witness' bank account. He in turn divided the proceeds and paid the illegal aliens living in the apartment for their work.

The witness also testified about a conversation he had with Wilson. Wilson offered the subcontracting job at the university to the witness, but he declined the offer telling Wilson that he could not get the required insurance to be a subcontractor because he did not have a Social Security number. Wilson later contracted the job to Martinez.

Border Patrol (BP) agents in Kingsville first became aware of the aliens after one of them was arrested while standing at a gas station with a suitcase; he had no documents showing that he was in the United States legally. He told BP agents about the apartment complex where he was staying, and on July 1 agents witnessed a large amount of men coming out of one apartment and getting into vehicles. Agents performed traffic stops on two of the trucks leaving the apartment, leading to the arrest of five workers.

Holtzapfel and Martinez were indicted on July 22, and Wilson on Aug. 12; all were charged with one count of conspiring to harbor illegal aliens and two counts of harboring an illegal alien; all three were released on bond. A federal jury convicted the three men for conspiracy and harboring illegal aliens. The jury also found Holtzapfel and Wilson guilty of the second count of harboring illegal aliens. All three men face up to 10 years imprisonment and a $250,000 fine; sentencing is scheduled for Jan. 7 before Chief U.S. District Court Judge Hayden Head, who presided over the trial.

The court has permitted Holtzapfel and Wilson to remain on bond pending sentencing. Martinez failed to appear in court, and his whereabouts are unknown. A warrant was issued for his arrest.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Hess, Southern District of Texas, is prosecuting the case.