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Human Smuggling/Trafficking
01/25/2008

Human smuggler sentenced to more than 12 years in prison following guilty plea

LAREDO - A Mexican national was sentenced here Thursday to serve a 151-month prison term for his role in a human smuggling scheme that resulted in the death of an illegal alien.  This sentence resulted from an investigation conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

Mauricio Briones-Hernandez, 19, pleaded guilty June 5 to alien smuggling resulting in death.

In February 2007, Briones-Hernandez ran a stop sign on Highway 16 a few miles from the Hebbronville checkpoint. A Jim Hogg County Sheriff's deputy witnessed the traffic violation, and signaled for him to pull over. Instead, Briones-Hernandez sped off. The resulting high-speed chase finally ended when the driver lost control and rolled his vehicle several times. Since the deputy suspected that it was a possible smuggling situation, he immediately notified U.S. Customs and Border Protection and ICE after the crash.

One of the 12 passengers in the vehicle died immediately as a result of the crash. All 11 surviving passengers provided the investigating ICE agents with substantial testimony against Briones-Hernandez. Of the 12 passengers in the vehicle, four were from Mexico and eight from Guatemala.

"Briones-Hernandez has the next 12 years to think about the life he took," said Jerry Robinette, special agent-in-charge of the ICE Office of Investigations in San Antonio. "I hope that this appropriate sentence will help deter others who consider evading the police. We must hold these violators accountable for their decisions to flee from police. These decisions often endanger their passengers, the community and all of law enforcement."

This case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Brian Sardelli, Southern District of Texas.

ICE encourages the public to report illegal activity to its toll-free hotline: 1- 866 DHS-2ICE, which is monitored 24 hours a day.