By Megan Kennedy - Content Editor
Posted: 7:30 PM, March 07, 2018
Updated: 9:23 PM, March 07, 2018

HOUSTON - A man considered an "illegal alien" by the U.S. Department of Justice pleaded guilty Wednesday to charges of harboring illegal aliens, using a firearm during a crime of violence and other charges, officials said.

J. Matias Picazo-Lucas, a 57-year-old Mexican national, faces a minimum five years and up to life in prison -- as well as additional years for the two firearms convictions, another 10 years for harboring aliens and a maximum of 20 years on the illegal re-entry conviction. Each count carries a potential fine of up to $250,000, the DOJ said.

In August 2017, an individual contacted authorities to report that a person had been smuggled into the United States and was being held against his will in Houston, officials said. That person also said smugglers were demanding money in return for the release of the alien.

An undercover officer agreed to meet Picazo-Lucas at a set time and location where the two discussed an exchange of money to "buyout the relative," officials said. Picazo-Lucas was taken into custody shortly thereafter, and was carrying at .38 caliber pistol.

He will be sentenced May 24.