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HSI Casa Grande investigation results in significant sentences for smugglers in U-Haul transport resulting in death

Human RightsHSI Casa Grande investigation results in significant sentences for smugglers in U-Haul transport resulting in death

PHOENIX, Ariz. — A federal judge sentenced the remaining men involved in an October 2020 human smuggling incident that resulted in death were sentenced during the week of April 17 following a Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Casa Grande investigation.

“Dismantling human smuggling networks has been a longtime focus for HSI Arizona, but for those events that have resulted in a death of a migrant our investigation intensifies,” said HSI Arizona Special Agent in Charge Scott Brown. “No one should ever lose their lives at the hands of a smuggler. Together with our law enforcement partners, we continue to identify smuggling syndicates to safeguard the U.S. border and help save the lives of people these organizations regularly prey upon.”

Trajahn Alexander Johnson, 25, of Glendale, Arizona, was sentenced to six months in prison followed by two years of supervised release. Johnson, the final co-conspirator to be sentenced, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to transport illegal aliens resulting in death.

Johnson’s co-defendants were charged for their roles in the transportation of the undocumented noncitizens. They also pleaded guilty to conspiracy to transport illegal aliens resulting in death and were sentenced as follows:

Israel Omar Vargas, 21, of Avondale, was sentenced on Sept.19, 2022, to 80 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release.
Worine Terrell Sams Jr., 25, of Mesa, was sentenced on March 27, 2023, to 64 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release.

Two other people also were charged in a separate indictment for their roles in the transportation of undocumented noncitizens. They pleaded guilty to transportation of illegal aliens resulting in death and were sentenced as follows:

Tristan James Mott, 22, of Mesa, was sentenced on Jan. 18 to 78 months in prison followed by five years of supervised release.
Jera Simone Richard, 25, of Tempe, was sentenced on Jan. 30 to 36 months in prison followed by five years of supervised release.

On Oct. 1, 2020, in response to a 911 call, officers of the Gila River Police Department stopped a U-Haul box truck. Upon investigation, they discovered 14 undocumented noncitizens in the truck, one of whom had died during transport. Officials took four others to the hospital for treatment of heat-related illnesses. Gila River police officers identified Richard as the driver of the U-Haul and Mott as the passenger. Investigators later determined that Richard and Mott had coordinated the 14 individuals’ transport with Vargas, Sams and Johnson.

“Human smuggling is always a risky business proposition, and sometimes those seeking a better life in America pay the ultimate price,” said U.S. Attorney Gary Restaino. “Thanks to the collective work of a private citizen calling 911, observant tribal police officers and dedicated federal agents, we disrupted an alien smuggling scheme and held these five defendants accountable for the death of a migrant in their care.”

The United States Attorney’s Office, District of Arizona, Phoenix, prosecuted the case.

HSI is the principal investigative arm of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), responsible for investigating transnational crime and threats, specifically those criminal organizations that exploit the global infrastructure through which international trade, travel and finance move. HSI’s workforce of more than 8,700 employees consists of more than 6,000 special agents assigned to 237 cities throughout the United States, and 93 overseas locations in 56 countries. HSI’s international presence represents DHS’s largest investigative law enforcement presence abroad and one of the largest international footprints in U.S. law enforcement.

Story from www.ice.gov

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are independent views solely of the author(s) expressed in their private capacity.

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