CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Three individuals were sentenced to federal prison Tuesday for their roles in an alien smuggling scheme that resulted in the death of a 70 year-old woman in her home, announced U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson, Southern District of Texas. The investigation was conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).
The driver of an SUV carrying smugglers and illegal aliens was driving at a high rate of speed attempting to elude police officers when he crashed the vehicle into a home in Falfurrias, Texas.
Romeo Cantu and Marcos Adrian, both of Falfurrias, Texas, and Evarardo Hernandez-Salazar, a Mexican national, were sentenced by Senior U.S. District Judge John Rainey to 96, 52 and 64 months in federal prison, respectively, for their roles in the scheme. In handing down the sentences, Judge Rainey noted that he hoped the sentences in this tragic case would be a deterrent to others engaging in this all-too-common crime.
On Aug. 6, 2011, at about 3:30 a.m., a Brooks County, Texas, Sheriff's deputy initiated a traffic stop on a Chevrolet Suburban for an unsafe lane change and failing to signal. The driver initially stopped, but as the deputy approached the vehicle, the driver accelerated rapidly. Shortly thereafter, the SUV crashed and went completely through the victim's home. The victim was struck and killed instantly.
All the occupants of the SUV fled from the vehicle before law enforcement authorities arrived. Police officers soon located one of the smugglers, Adrian, after a brief foot pursuit and found seven illegal aliens hiding in the bed of a nearby truck. The driver of the vehicle, an individual known only as "Perico," escaped.
HSI agents learned the defendants, along with Perico, were involved in a conspiracy to transport illegal aliens within the United States and actively participated in the smuggling operation. Evidence revealed that Hernandez-Salazar picked up the aliens Aug. 5, 2011 and drove them to a motel in Donna, Texas. Several hours later they were transported north in a station wagon driven by Perico. Hernandez-Salazar, Cantu and Adrian provided cover for the vehicle until a Texas Department of Public Safety trooper initiated a traffic stop, at which time Perico and the aliens exited the station wagon and fled into the brush.
Perico guided the aliens around a checkpoint and made contact with Hernandez-Salazar, Cantu and Adrian by cellular telephone. Adrian drove from Cantu's residence to the designated pick-up spot, where Perico and the aliens boarded the SUV. Perico shoved Adrian from the driver's seat to the front passenger seat, took the driver's seat himself and started driving.
All the defendants gave statements to law enforcement agents and admitted their own involvement and that of their co-conspirators in the alien smuggling scheme. The illegal aliens were interviewed and provided details regarding the smuggling attempt, including that they yelled at Perico to stop the SUV after he had accelerated rapidly in his attempt to escape.
Hernandez-Salazar, Cantu and Adrian have been in custody since their arrest where they will remain pending transfer to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near future.
Anyone with information as to "Perico's" whereabouts is asked to contact Homeland Security Investigations at 361-888-3501. He is presumed innocent unless and until convicted through due process of law.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeffrey D. Preston, Southern District of Texas, prosecuted this case.