Cafe owner pleads guilty

A Homeland Security officer talks to TV reporters about Homeland Security's three-year criminal investigation into the Taqueria Guadalajara and nearby houses Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2017. The Homeland Security-led investigation also included border patrol offcers and the Refugio Police Department. Alfredo Placensia-Leon pled guilty to federal charges last week on Wednesday.

REFUGIO – Alfredo Placensia-Leon entered a guilty plea to a federal felony indictment Wednesday, Sept. 25.

Placensia, 48, the owner of the Taqueria Guadalajara and Gumbo’s in Refugio, was arrested Feb. 21, 2017, on several charges, including bringing in and harboring illegal immigrants; selling firearms; and structuring transactions to evade reporting requirements, according to documents in the federal district clerk’s office in Victoria.

At about 6:30 a.m., Feb. 21, 2017, investigators from ICE’s Homeland Security, U.S. Border Patrol and the Refugio Police Department arrived at Placensia’s restaurant to serve four warrants.

Mexican, Honduran and Niaraguan immigrants were detained, as well as Placensia, who had no prior record.

Placensia’s guilty plea was on count one: “(Placensia) knowingly and for the purpose of evading reporting requirements of section 5313 (a) of Title 31, USC and the regulations promulgated thereunder, did conspire to structure, and assist in structuring transactions with domestic financial institutions, and did so while violating another law of the United States and as part of a pattern of illegal activity, involving more than $100,000 in a 12-month period of time.”

Placensia agreed to pay a fine of $500,000 in the plea agreement.

The federal prosecution agreed to dismiss three other indictments in the plea deal.

The range of punishment for the offense Placensia pled guilty to includes a fine of up to $250,000 and/or up to five years in prison.

He will be sentenced Jan. 6, 2020, at 4:30 p.m. in U.S. District Judge John D. Rainey’s court in Victoria.

Tim Delaney is the Refugio editor at the Advance-Guard Press and can be reached at 361-526-2397, or at refugio@mySouTex.com.