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on the border line between the US and Mexico

Saturday, January 8, 2022

Richmond, Virginia: Man Who Says He Fled Mexico After Threats From Drug Cartel Members Likely Will Be Deported After Illegally Entering U.S. 5 Times

"Sol Prendido" for Borderland Beat

A man who said he fled Mexico because drug cartel members kidnapped him and his son and threatened his family’s safety will likely be deported after he illegally entered the U.S. five times in the past two decades.

Sotero Vargas-Chavez, a Mexican national who was found in Richmond last year, was ordered Thursday to be placed into the custody of immigration authorities for likely deportation. In lieu of a federal prison sentence, he was given credit for the time he was jailed since his arrest.

Vargas-Chavez’s repeated illegal re-entry into the U.S. demonstrated his inability or unwillingness to abide by U.S. law “and that must be taken seriously,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office said in court papers.

U.S. District Court Judge Robert Payne did not sentence Vargas-Chavez to any prison time as prosecutors sought, but ordered that he be surrendered to the U.S. Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement for deportation proceedings. Federal sentencing guidelines called for a punishment of between zero and six months in prison, and Payne opted to give Vargas-Chavez credit for the four months he has been behind bars since his Sept. 2 arrest.

Through his attorney, Vargas-Chavez, 50, said he fled Mexico after he and his oldest son were kidnapped separately in 2017 and 2018 by drug cartel members who also threatened the safety of his family. He alleged the cartel held his son for a week and demanded $1 million pesos as ransom ($48,000), and he sold his home, small sawmill business and trucks to raise what he could for his son’s release.

As he worked to rebuild his business, Vargas-Chavez said cartel members kidnapped him again, and forced him to shutter his livelihood. “It was after Mr. Vargas’s kidnapping that he came back to the United States to find a safer means to support his family,” wrote his attorney, Laura Koenig, in a sentencing memorandum.

Prosecutors said that after Vargas-Chavez illegally re-entered the U.S. between 2018 and 2019, he requested asylum — “but failed to even respond to the notice to appear so that his request for asylum could be heard.”

“The matters of his personal history involve self-reported instances of his and his family’s alleged encounters with Mexican drug cartels,” wrote Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen Anthony. “While these claims are not, and likely cannot be verified, even if they are true, that is all the more reason why the defendant’s failure to follow through with his asylum request is, at best, puzzling — if not an indication that [his] claims are specious.”

According to the prosecution’s statement of facts, Vargas-Chavez was first arrested by U.S. Border Patrol agents on Sept. 25, 2001, near Carrizo Springs, Texas, as he was attempting to illegally enter the U.S. He subsequently returned to Mexico voluntarily.

He was arrested again on Jan. 15, 2010, near Sasabe, Ariz., and ordered removed, again, for a period of five years. Following that, Vargas-Chavez re-entered the U.S. twice more and was removed again in 2014 and 2015.

Then on June 15, 2021, investigators observed Vargas-Chavez residing at a home on Broad Rock Boulevard in Richmond. Authorities determined that he had not been granted permission to return or reside in the U.S. after he had been previously removed from the country.

“To date, the threat of removal, actual removal, nor any other consequences for his breaking the law has managed to hinder the defendant,” Anthony wrote. “As such, a period of incarceration must be imposed to ensure the defendant takes his breaking of the law seriously. 

Moreover, the defendant’s actions relative to his illegal presence in this case forestall any contention that he is merely a victim of circumstance and had no other way to secure his legal presence in the United States considering his failure to follow through with his asylum request in 2019.”

Koenig wrote in the sentencing memorandum that while in the U.S., Vargas-Chavez worked several jobs and sent his earnings to his family in Mexico. Once he completes any prison sentence the court imposes, he will be deported back to Mexico and “plans to stay and work there for the rest of his life.”

“Mr. Vargas is in jail for the first time in his life,” Koenig wrote. “The three months of incarceration he has endured in this case are a sufficient deterrent to any future criminal activity. He simply wants to live a quiet, peaceful life with loved ones back at home.”

Richmond Times Dispatch


  1. So sad! I too have family going through a very difficult situation right now in Mexico. $10,000 is what a Cartel in Colima is asking to free our innocent relative!! Mexico is certainty a true breeding ground for savages!! And unfortunately most innocent folks and families whom are there have NO place to flee if they wanted to!!!! Hard to believe what a shit hole & LAWLESS place our native country has become. As a child and later as a teen I used to spend my summers in Tamaulipas and travel to Michoacán by bus to visit my grandmother’s there, and now I won’t dare cross that rachet border, which EVERYONE knows damn-well is LAWLESS on the flip side! Shame, Shame, Shame!

  2. Sucks, the good guy is a bad guy by unjust laws

  3. When the system fails you you're left with no other choice than to create your own fucking system. One in which your survival is ensured.

  4. i will not cry.i spend $220 and take $100 of bison survival is pleasant one suspect im the who takes.

  5. Let the man provide for his loved ones
    Go Catch the real criminals

  6. Its near imposible for a mexican to get asylum in the US..


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