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Human Smuggling/Trafficking
08/12/2008

Former Border Patrol agent sentenced to more than 4 years for smuggling aliens

LAREDO, Texas - A former U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Border Patrol agent was sentenced here Tuesday to serve more than four years in prison for conspiracy to transport/harbor aliens. U.S. Attorney Don DeGabrielle, Southern District of Texas, announced the sentence; U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) conducted the investigation.

Former Border Patrol Agent David Cruz, 32, who is also the former operator of the Burger Patrol restaurant located near the federal courthouse in Laredo, was sentenced to serve 50 months in federal prison.

Cruz, 32, of Laredo, worked as a border patrol agent until September 2007, when he suddenly resigned during a human smuggling and public corruption investigation by ICE's Office of Professional Responsibility. ICE agents obtained information that aliens were smuggled from Mexico to Laredo, and then to San Antonio, Austin, Houston and other destinations with the assistance of a border patrol agent. In December 2007, Cruz was arrested with his wife Susana Lopez Portillo De Cruz, 36, of Laredo, and a third alien smuggler, Bertha Alicia "La Guera" Esquivel, 40, of Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas, Mexico.

David and Susana Cruz entered guilty pleas Jan. 17 before U.S. Magistrate Judge Diana Saldaña to three counts each of conspiring to transport/harbor illegal immigrants. Bertha Alicia "La Guera" Esquivel entered a guilty plea Feb. 13 to the same counts.

Esquivel was identified as a guide who transported aliens by commercial bus and coordinated the smuggling through Susana Cruz. Susana Cruz relayed information, such bus numbers, locations and times to her husband, who allowed the aliens with Esquivel to pass through the checkpoint. The Cruzes also provided documents to Esquivel, which she gave to the aliens in case they were stopped or questioned in route.

All three defendants appeared before Judge Micaela Alvarez Aug. 12 for sentencing. Judge Alvarez allowed each defendant to make a statement and present evidence before she announced the following sentences:

  • David Cruz received 50 months incarceration, a fine of $5000, three years of supervised release following completion of his sentence, and a special assessment of $100 per count of conviction.
  • Susana Cruz received 50 months incarceration followed by a three-year-term of supervised release, and a special assessment of $100 per count of conviction.
  • Bertha Esquivel received 30 months incarceration in the Federal Bureau of Prisons and a special assessment of $100 per count of conviction.

David Cruz was allowed to remain on bond pending report to the Bureau of Prisons. Susana Cruz and Esquivel remain in custody.

ICE conducted the investigation; Assistant U.S. Attorney James McAlister, Southern District of Texas, prosecuted the case.