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Human Smuggling/Trafficking

Houston woman pleads guilty to human smuggling resulting in death

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — A Houston woman pleaded guilty Thursday to smuggling a group of nine illegal aliens resulting in the death of one of them, announced U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson, Southern District of Texas.

This investigation was conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), with assistance provided by U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) Border Patrol (BP).

Karin Yamilec Aguilar-Melgor, 22, pleaded guilty June 5 before U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos.

"The tragic loss of life in this case shows the very real risks people face when they put their lives in the hands of smugglers," said Brian M. Moskowitz, special agent in charge of HSI Houston. "Those responsible for illegally moving people into and through our country place personal profit ahead of public safety. Driven by greed, they have little regard for the health and well-being of their human cargo, and that can be a deadly combination."

According to documents filed in this case, on Feb. 25 at about 3:30 a.m., BP agents observed individuals getting into a red Ford pickup truck on a Farm-to-Market (FM) road near Falfurrias, Texas. Finding the activity suspicious, the agents activated their emergency equipment and approached the vehicle. The vehicle then fled.

BP agents remained at the scene and apprehended one illegal alien. The pickup truck was located about five miles away, having crashed into a tree on FM 2191 near Falfurrias. At the scene, eight more illegal aliens were discovered, as well as Aguilar-Melgor, the driver.

One of the illegal aliens in the truck subsequently died due to injuries sustained in the crash. Aguilar-Melgor was arrested at the scene and has remained in custody since then.

Sentencing is set for Oct. 1. At that time, Aguilar-Melgor faces up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeffrey S. Miller, Southern District of Texas, is prosecuting this case.