A Guatemalan man wanted in connection with a massacre in his home country was found living and working in Waltham, Massachusetts.
Francisco Cuxum Alvarado appeared in federal court in Boston on Friday for illegally reentering the United States. However, federal prosecutors claim his previous crimes are far worse.
"Women and children were tortured, raped and murdered," said Michael Ronayne, assistant special agent in charge of Homeland Security Investigations.
Cuxum Alvarado has been accused of playing a role in a massacre and mass sexual assault in Guatemala between 1980 and 1982. According to Ronayne, agents began looking for him after they were notified that he was wanted for crimes against humanity in the country. In April, they traced him to Waltham, where court filings state he was working in landscaping.
"He was there and living a quiet, uneventful, unremarkable life," Ronayne explained. "These people have committed these crimes overseas and now they're attempting to utilize the U.S. as a safe haven."
The agency has long been working to track down war criminals who have come to the U.S. to escape charges in their own countries. Several years ago, they established the Human Rights Violators and War Crimes Center to bring increased attention to the problem.
In the case of Cuxum Alvarado, investigators said he admitted to joining a civil militia that aided the Guatemalan government in removing Maya Achi people from the Rio Negro area in the country, which resulted in hundreds of murders.
During his sentencing hearing in court, Judge Indira Talwani said she was not here to assess whether he committed the atrocities prosecutors have alleged. However, she said it was clear he had illegally returned to the U.S. after being removed in 2004.
Because Cuxum Alvarado had already spent several months behind bars, Talwani gave him credit for time served. But rather than allow him to go free, she said he would be turned over to the U.S. Marshal's Office and then likely detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement for deportation.
"It's very important, if somebody is here in the U.S., that we bring them to justice," said Ronayne. "And hopefully, give the victims at least some small level of satisfaction."