EL PASO, Texas - A local couple was sentenced to years in federal prison Thursday for their role in an alien smuggling incident that led to a man's drowning. These sentencings are the result of an investigation by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)-led Border Enforcement Security Task Force (BEST) with assistance from the U.S. Border Patrol.
Daniel Magallanes, 36, a lawful permanent resident of the United States, and his wife, Eva Araceli Corral, 32, a U.S. citizen, were sentenced to 96 months and 48 months in federal prison, respectively. The couple was part of an alien smuggling conspiracy responsible for the death of an illegal alien found in the American Canal in El Paso on Oct. 28, 2007.
On April 14, 2009, both defendants pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit alien smuggling, aiding and abetting bringing in illegal aliens resulting in death, aiding and abetting bringing in illegal aliens for financial gain, transporting illegal aliens for financial gain, harboring illegal aliens for financial gain, and encouraging and inducing aliens to illegally enter the United States.
The investigation was conducted by BEST, a U.S. Department of Homeland Security national initiative led by ICE, operating along the U.S.-Mexico border.
"This case exemplifies the mission of BEST, which is to combat smuggling and dismantle criminal organizations run by those who exploit our borders with little regard for human life," said Manuel Oyola-Torres, special agent in charge for the ICE Office of Investigations in El Paso.
During a smuggling attempt in October 2007, a group of illegal aliens - five adults and four children - agreed to pay the defendants about $20,000 in smuggling fees. One of the adults, Fritman Cardenas-Reyna, 49, drowned in the American Canal while trying to cross into the United States from Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico.
Two additional members of the smuggling organization, Alfonso Corral-Marrufo and Nicolas Martinez-Valdivia, both Mexican citizens, were indicted in 2008 along with Daniel Magallanes and Eva Araceli Corral.
Martinez-Valdivia, 42, was arrested in his home in Canutillo, Texas. The ICE Office of International Affairs in Ciudad Juarez coordinated the arrest of Corral Marrufo, 55, in Ciudad Juarez and he was extradited to the United States. Corral-Marrufo is pending trial. Martinez-Valdivia was sentenced to time served in April and was deported to Mexico.
The BEST task force in El Paso is one of 15 such teams nationwide and was formed in October 2006. El Paso's BEST members include ICE, U.S. Customs and Border, the Drug Enforcement Administration, U.S. Department of State, Transportation Security Administration, Texas Department of Public Safety, El Paso County Sheriff's Office, El Paso Police Department and the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Western District of Texas.
Officers from federal, state and local law enforcement agencies work together in the task force identify, disrupt and dismantle cross-border criminal organizations and their supporting infrastructures. The BEST team develops information that helps it identify "drop houses," warehouses and hotels where illegal aliens and narcotics are harbored in the area. Since it was formed in 2006, the El Paso BEST team has identified several alien and narcotic smuggling organizations with ties to violent prison and street gangs on both sides of the border.