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2 human smugglers sentenced for fatal smuggling event in Texas following HSI McAllen investigation

Human Rights2 human smugglers sentenced for fatal smuggling event in Texas following HSI McAllen investigation

MCALLEN, Texas — Two Mexican citizens were sentenced Aug. 15 for their roles in a human smuggling conspiracy that resulted in three deaths. Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) McAllen, the Palmview Police Department and the Texas Department of Public Safety investigated the case.

Francisco Javier Quintanilla-Alcocer, 39, and Brandon Cibriano-Gonzalez, 22, both Mexican citizens residing illegally in the United States, were sentenced by U.S. District Judge Micaela Alvarez. Alvarez sentenced Quintanilla-Alcocer to 87 months for the human smuggling conspiracy in addition to 24 months for illegally reentering the United States. Cibriano-Gonzalez received a 74-month sentence. Alvarez ordered the sentences in part consecutive for a cumulative 100-month term of imprisonment. Neither are U.S. citizens; therefore, they are expected to face removal proceedings following imprisonment.

At the hearing, the court considered details of the life-altering and permanent injuries the survivors sustained in the accident. Alvarez also considered Cibriano-Gonzalez’s prior apprehensions as a brush guide and the fact that he attempted to lead another group of migrants into the county less than a month after the accident.

In handing down the sentences, Alvarez noted Quintanilla-Alcocer’s disregard for the migrants’ well-being, emphasizing the effects and harm their conduct has had on the victims and their families.

Both pleaded guilty March 3 and Feb. 3, respectively.

“Dismantling human smuggling networks has been a longtime focus for HSI McAllen, but when smuggling events result in three migrant deaths it intensifies our effort,” said HSI San Antonio Special Agent in Charge Craig Larrabee. “Human smuggling is dangerous, but as this case demonstrates, it can also be deadly. HSI will not stop investigating and bringing smugglers to court to face justice. There can be no safe haven for smugglers who evade our nation’s laws and have reckless disregard for human life.”

“Two migrants died on the side of a dirt road in Mission, Texas, because of a smuggler’s reckless attempt to avoid arrest,” said U.S. Attorney Alamdar S. Hamdani. “Human smugglers — they don’t care about anyone’s life but their own, and after leading authorities on a car chase, crashing and rolling a vehicle full of migrants, Quintanilla-Alcocer fled the scene, leaving those he transported for dead. Remember this: Human smugglers — you are not welcome in the Southern District of Texas, and this office will continue its efforts to hold these criminals accountable with convictions and long sentences.”

According to court documents, on Oct. 22, 2021, Cibriano-Gonzalez acted as a brush guide to smuggle a group of 10 noncitizens from Mexico into the United States. He guided them to a pick-up location in Palmview. There, Quintanilla-Alcocer and Orlando Andres Garcia arrived and were driving a Chevrolet Impala and Chevrolet Malibu, respectively. The noncitizens and Cibriano-Gonzalez loaded into the vehicles and left the scene. Shortly thereafter, law enforcement officials attempted to conduct a traffic stop, but both vehicles failed to yield, and a high-speed chase ensued, reaching 130 miles per hour. Quintanilla-Alcocer eventually turned onto a dirt road in Mission where the Impala rolled and crashed into a homeowner’s fence. Authorities located a total of seven people on scene. Three had been ejected, two of whom died at the scene. Quintanilla-Alcocer was not located at that time. However, evidence in the vehicle led law enforcement authorities to him. Phone records also indicated that Quintanilla-Alcocer and Garcia had been consistently communicating throughout the high-speed pursuit. During these conversations, Garcia instructed Quintanilla-Alcocer to go faster.

Three months following the crash, a third migrant succumbed to his injuries.

Garcia previously admitted his guilt in relation to the scheme and is set for sentencing before Alvarez on Nov. 14. He faces up to life in federal prison and will remain in custody pending the hearing.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Lee Fry and Devin Walker for the Southern District of Texas prosecuted the case.

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 866-347-2423.

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’ 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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