Sunland Park brothers reindicted in migrant stash house case

Sunland Park brothers were reindicted after two groups of migrants escaped from a stash house in 2023, where they were allegedly being held hostage and threatened by the men, authorities said.

Saul Duron Castorena, 41, and his brother Steven Castorena, 40, were reindicted Thursday, Jan. 25, by a federal grand jury on a superseding indictment charging them with several counts of taking hostages and running a stash house, federal court records show.

Saul Duron Castorena
Saul Duron Castorena

The brothers are accused of detaining and threatening to kill or injure two migrants between Jan. 15-18, 2023, U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of New Mexico officials said. They allegedly threatened the migrants and their families to pay a ransom for their release.

The superseding indictment now charges the men with conspiracy to take a hostage, two counts of hostage taking, conspiracy to harbor illegal aliens, and two counts of harboring an illegal alien. Saul Castorena also faces one count of being a felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition and possession of a firearm not registered with the National Firearms Registration and Transfer Record.

The men were initially indicted June 13, 2023, on one count each of conspiring to harbor and transport unauthorized migrants for profit. Saul Castorena was indicted on the gun charge.

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The men were arrested Jan. 19, 2023, in connection with the stash house investigation. They have remained in the Dona Ana County Jail in Las Cruces since their arrest.

A federal trial date for the brothers is set for March 25. The men, if found guilty, face life in prison.

Migrants caught in El Paso leads to Sunland Park stash house discovery

U.S. Border Patrol agents detained four migrants Jan. 18, 2023, near Top Golf, 365 Vin Rambla Drive., in West El Paso, a federal complaint affidavit states.

The migrants told agents they were smuggled illegally into the U.S. and were being kept at a stash house. The migrants added they escaped from the stash house through a rear window.

Steven Castorena
Steven Castorena

Two of the migrants allegedly told agents they were "threatened by several individuals with firearms" while at the stash house, the affidavit states.

The migrants were described in the affidavit as acting "visually afraid and were hesitant to speak in detail of their experience while at the stash house."

The agents asked the migrants if they were willing to identify the house. The migrants told the agents the house was near a red "Power" sign in Sunland Park near a park.

The migrants told agents they had been taken to the stash house in a dark-colored SUV with chrome wheels, the affidavit states.

The agents drove the migrants to the area where the migrants said the stash house was located. As they entered the area near the "Power" signs, agents spotted the dark-colored SUV. The migrants then "immediately" identified the SUV as the vehicle they were brought to the stash house in, the affidavit states.

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The migrants then identified the stash house to agents. The home was near Calle Carrosel and Calle Obregon streets in Sunland Park.

Agents saw several people walking around the perimeter of the property who seemed to be acting as lookouts, the affidavit states.

The migrants told the agents there were seven other migrants, including a mother and a small child, from Guatemala inside the stash house.

A second group of migrants detained by Border Patrol agents early the next morning also claimed to have escaped from the same Sunland Park stash house, the affidavit states.

Smuggled migrant dies as he was taken to stash house

Homeland Security Investigations special agents then questioned the two groups of migrants at the Paseo Del Norte Border Patrol Station in El Paso.

Two migrants said they recently crossed into the U.S. with a group of about 30 migrants. They said the migrants were told to get into a vehicle fit for 12 people.

One of the migrants in the group was crushed and died of asphyxiation, the affidavit states. The driver told the migrants he would take the dead migrant to the hospital but ended up dumping the body at an unknown gas station, the affidavit states. No further information was released on the death.

The migrants were briefly taken to another stash house where men with guns showed up. The men then took members of the group of migrants to different stash houses.

Smugglers threaten migrants, family for more money

One of the migrants told HSI agents the migrants were threatened with further imprisonment or harm if they did not pay the smugglers an additional $5,000 for smuggling fees, the affidavit states.

The smugglers allegedly called the migrant's family. They told the family member they would not let the migrant leave until the $5,000 was received, the affidavit states. The migrant later escaped the stash house through a rear window.

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The migrant told HSI agents there were still people at the stash house who were being threatened by the people in charge, the affidavit states.

A second migrant told HSI agents he was taken to the stash house, told to get out of the vehicle in the driveway, had a gun pointed at him and was threatened, the affidavit states. The migrant said he was never taken inside the stash house before he was able to escape from the property.

HSI agents execute search warrant at stash house

Agents obtained a search warrant the same day "based on the severity of the situation and potential for violence to individuals in the stash house," the affidavit states.

Nine migrants, including a child, were found at the stash house. Three men were arrested in connection with smuggling and running the stash house. The three men were Saul Castorena, Steven Castorena and their brother Frank Castorena, the affidavit states.

Agents found a sawed-off shotgun and two assault rifles, one of which was short-barreled, during their search. The shotgun was found in a bedroom closet in a room belonging to Saul Castorena, while the assault rifles were found in vehicles on the property, the affidavit states.

An employee identification badge with Saul Castorena's name on it was found in the room, the affidavit states. No information was released on where Saul Castorena worked.

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When the agents entered the house, they saw Saul Castorena, along with a woman and a child, both migrants, exit his room, the affidavit states.

The three men and nine migrants were taken into custody.

The group was taken to a U.S. Border Patrol station, where two migrants alerted agents that two men who were part of the stash house were pretending to be migrants. The agents then arrested Jose Torres-Chairez and Jose Barrios-Mesa.

The migrants told agents the five men acted as caretakers of the stash house, in charge of the migrants, made them sleep in vehicles on the property and threatened them, the affidavit states.

Federal case status of co-defendants

Frank Castorena is facing one count of conspiracy to harbor illegal aliens. His case remains pending in federal court, U.S. District Court for the District of New Mexico court records show.

Torres-Chairez pleaded guilty July 11 to one count of conspiracy to harbor illegal aliens. He was sentenced Nov. 15 to 302 days in prison, U.S. District Court for the District of New Mexico court records show.

Barrios-Mesa pleaded guilty July 11 to one count of conspiracy to harbor illegal aliens. He was sentenced Oct. 19 to 275 days in prison.

Aaron Martinez may be reached at or on Twitter @AMartinezEPT.

This article originally appeared on El Paso Times: Sunland Park brother facing additional charge in migrants hostage case