CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — A Houston man was sentenced Wednesday to 6 ½ years in federal prison following his conviction on conspiracy to transport 14 illegal aliens within the United States and causing serious bodily injury, announced U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson, Southern District of Texas. The investigation was conducted by special agents from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), and agents from U.S. Customs and Border Protection's (CBP) Border Patrol.
Leonel Alvaro Abundis-Carreon, 22, pleaded guilty Aug. 6 before U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzalez-Ramos, who sentenced him to a term of 78 months in federal prison, which is to be followed by three years of supervised release. Judge Ramos also ordered Abundis-Carreon to pay restitution in the amount of $7,300 to the victim's family, $71,423.81 to Christus Spohn Kleberg, $257,638.05 to Christus Spohn Memorial and $34,689.01 to Christus Spohn Hospital in medical costs. In his guilty plea, he admitted he was driving a truck loaded with several illegal aliens, one of whom was killed.
The court learned that on Feb. 9, at about 6:10 a.m., Falfurrias Border Patrol agents were advised to be on the lookout for a white Ford F 250 pickup truck that was possibly involved in alien smuggling. Moments later, agents witnessed a white Chevrolet pickup truck traveling north on Farm to Market Road (FM) 1538 in Brooks County, Texas.
Several people were observed in the cab with several more ducking down in the bed of the truck. When agents began to follow the truck, it sped off at a high rate of speed. Border Patrol agents activated their emergency lights and siren, but the truck continued to travel north on FM 1538 until it merged onto County Road (CR) 417. The driver then turned off the headlights and drove straight through a fence and into a privately owned ranch. Agents followed the truck's dust cloud and located it facing south on the opposite side of the fence line.
When agents exited their vehicle, they saw several injured individuals lying on the ground near the truck. A deceased person was pinned under the truck's front tire and another was pinned under the rear axle of the truck, who appeared to still be breathing but unresponsive. At the scene, agents located seven individuals, three of whom were airlifted to the hospital. Near the crash site, Border Patrol agents located seven more individuals involved in the crash.
Abundis-Carreon admitted to HSI special agents that he was the driver of the truck and was being paid $125 for each alien he smuggled. One of the aliens suffered a broken pelvis which is expected to prevent him from walking for at least six months. The person found under the rear axle suffered third-degree burns on his legs. A third alien suffered an injury to his eye that required surgery.
Abundis-Carreon will remain in custody pending transfer to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near future.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Hugo R. Martinez, Southern District of Texas, prosecuted the case.