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Nicaraguan citizen sentenced to 6 years for human smuggling resulting in death following HSI Laredo investigation

Human RightsNicaraguan citizen sentenced to 6 years for human smuggling resulting in death following HSI Laredo investigation

LAREDO, Texas — A citizen of Nicaragua was sentenced June 29 for his role in a conspiracy to transport undocumented noncitizens resulting in death. Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Laredo investigated the case with help from the U.S. Border Patrol, sheriffs’ offices in Webb and Dimmit counties, the Webb County District Attorney’s Office, the Texas Department of Public Safety and the Texas Highway Patrol.

Arling Antonio Gutierrez-Garcia, 49, was sentenced June 29 to 72 months in federal prison. He pleaded guilty March 10.

“As this sentence makes clear, those who exploit people for profit will themselves face consequences,” said HSI San Antonio acting Special Agent in Charge Alejandro Amaro. “Those responsible for illegally moving people into and through our country place personal profit ahead of public safety and border protection. They are driven by greed with little regard for the health and well-being of their human cargo, which can be a deadly combination.”

Not a U.S. citizen, Gutierrez-Garcia is expected to face removal proceedings following his imprisonment. At the hearing, the court considered the conditions inside the trailer, law enforcement efforts in the heat, and prior statements of four noncitizens. In handing down the sentence, the court noted Gutierrez-Garcia was lucky that more people did not die. The judge also added that he could have stayed and assisted the noncitizens who were unable to exit and offered help to those in distress instead of running away into the brush.

According to court documents, on June 6, 2022, Gutierrez-Garcia drove a semitruck pulling a belly-dump trailer containing 63 citizens from Mexico and Guatemala. The metal trailer was covered with a vinyl tarp, which eliminated air circulation and increased temperatures.

Gutierrez-Garcia noticed the noncitizens jumping from the trailer through a tear in the tarp. He then stopped the truck on a private ranch road in western Webb County, where law enforcement officials saw him standing by the cab. Law enforcement officers and medical personnel helped the people in the trailer and those who escaped. Officials discovered one person at the bottom of the trailer’s pit and pronounced them dead at the scene.

Authorities apprehended Gutierrez-Garcia in the brush and he initially claimed he was being transported with the others.

Gutierrez-Garcia remains in custody pending transfer to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility. Assistant U.S. Attorney Homero Ramirez for the Southern District of Texas prosecuted the case.

“Transporting dozens of human beings in a vinyl-covered, all metal trailer in the South Texas summer heat demonstrates the callousness and indifference of smugglers to human life,” said U.S. Attorney Alamdar S. Hamdani for the Southern District of Texas. “The sweltering heat that built up in this vehicle — which was designed not for people, but for hauling sand, rock and other materials — maximized the potential for injury and the eventual and tragic death of one of the victims. Gutierrez-Garcia will now pay the price for his inhumane crime.”

HSI San Antonio continues to address the serious public safety threat posed by human smuggling organizations and their reckless disregard for the health and safety of the people they exploit. To report suspicious smuggling activity, you are urged to call 866-348-2423.

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.

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

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