CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – The fourth and final defendant in a failed human smuggling conspiracy that left six people dead in June 2019 in Southeast Texas pleaded guilty Wednesday.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in Corpus Christi, Texas, U.S. Border Patrol, Corpus Christi Police Department and Nueces County Sherriff’s Office conducted this investigation.
Mayra Chaver, 32, of Honduras, pleaded guilty to assisting an illegal alien to evade arrest. The three others charged in relation to the crime – Mexican citizens Agustin Gutierrez-Gonzalez, 33, and Ivan Dario Puga-Moreno, 30; and Elena Ruiz, 35, of Corpus Christi – had previously pleaded guilty to conspiracy to transport illegal aliens into the United States causing death or serious bodily injury. Gutierrez-Gonzalez and Puga-Moreno were both illegally present in the United States, and pleaded guilty to illegal reentry.
Chaver received time served for her role in the offense.
On June 5, 2019, authorities discovered a wrecked Chevrolet Suburban in a ditch in Robstown, Texas. Six people were found deceased at the scene with 12 more requiring hospitalization due to their significant injuries.
Puga-Moreno was the driver of the wrecked vehicle and had been attempting to smuggle 18 illegal aliens. Further investigation revealed Puga-Moreno fled the scene of the accident with the assistance of his girlfriend and friends – Ruiz, Chaver and Gutierrez-Gonzalez.
At the time of his plea, Puga-Moreno admitted he was driving the vehicle that crashed. He also acknowledged that when the accident occurred, he was evading police, confirming he was a citizen from Mexico and fled to Houston in attempt to avoid arrest.
Chaver, Ruiz and Gutierrez-Gonzalez admitted they helped Puga-Moreno flee the scene and evade arrest after the crashed occurred.
Sentencing for Puga-Moreno, Ruiz and Gutierrez-Gonzalez is set for April 22. At that time, all three face up to life in prison.
Puga-Moreno and Gutierrez-Gonzalez will remain in custody pending sentencing. Ruiz was permitted to remain on bond pending her hearing.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys John Cody Barnes and Jeremy Carl Fugate are prosecuting the case.