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December 1, 2023San Antonio, TX, United StatesHuman Smuggling/Trafficking

HSI Rio Grande Valley investigation leads to sentencing of human smuggler

McALLEN, Texas — The final man involved in a fatal smuggling conspiracy investigated by Homeland Security Investigations Rio Grande Valley has been ordered to federal prison for two separate smuggling events that occurred only weeks apart, announced U.S. Attorney Alamdar S. Hamdani.

Orlando Andres Garcia, 24, of Mission, pleaded guilty to human smuggling resulting in death and conspiracy to harbor noncitizens within the United States on Feb. 3, and Nov. 29, 2022, respectively.

U.S. District Judge Micaela Alvarez ordered Garcia to serve 120 months for the conspiracy to harbor conviction and 151 months for the smuggling event resulting in death. Garcia will serve part of his sentences consecutively and spend a total of 251 months in federal prison immediately followed by three years of supervised release.

At the hearing, the court heard how Garcia was communicating with the other driver in the fatal smuggling event and encouraged him to reach dangerous speeds. Alvarez also considered the life-altering and permanent injuries the survivors sustained in the accident, as well as the fact that Garcia was involved in holding people for ransom a mere 18 days later.

In handing down the sentences, Alvarez considered how the smugglers used multiple weapons, including firearms and a machete, further noting Garcia’s disregard for the noncitizens’ well-being and emphasizing the repetitiveness of his smuggling and how he harmed victims and their families.

“The fact that this unscrupulous smuggler put lives in danger to support his criminal activity is reprehensible. Today, justice was served,” said HSI San Antonio Special Agent in Charge Craig Larrabee. “These deaths could have been prevented were it not for this individual’s own greed rather than the safety of others. HSI remains committed to working with our law enforcement partners and utilizing unique investigative authorities to bring to justice those responsible for horrible tragedies like this one.”

“Garcia trafficked in humans, not caring about the multiple lives he destroyed,” said Hamdani. “His actions led to the death of three migrants and to the kidnapping of nearly 50 at gunpoint. He saw migrants not as human beings but as property to buy and sell. Now, the only property he can buy or sell for years to come is what he can find in the prison’s commissary.”

On Oct. 22, 2021, Brandon Cibriano-Gonzalez acted as a brush guide to smuggle a group of 10 noncitizens from Mexico into the United States. Francisco Javier Quintanilla-Alcocer and Garcia then picked them up and began to drive them in a Chevrolet Impala and Chevrolet Malibu, respectively. Law enforcement officials attempted to conduct a traffic stop, but both vehicles failed to yield and a high-speed chase ensued. Evidence showed that Garcia had been communicating with Quintanilla-Alcocer and telling him to go faster. They reached speeds of 130 miles per hour.

Quintanilla-Alcocer eventually turned onto a dirt road in Mission where the Impala rolled and crashed into a homeowner’s fence. Authorities located a total of seven people. Three had been ejected and two died at the scene. Three months following the crash, a third migrant succumbed to his injuries.

Just weeks after this event, Garcia was involved in another smuggling scheme and held people for ransom. On Nov. 9, 2021, several conspirators had arrived at a stash house, screamed, “Immigration,” and directed 47 fleeing individuals to multiple vehicles staged outside the residence. They then transported them in the backseats and trunks of vehicles to multiple residences before transporting them once again.

While at the stash houses, conspirators possessed and brandished firearms. They contacted the victims’ families for additional funds to facilitate transportation north. Garcia also used the noncitizens as payment to co-conspirators for their help. When they were unable to secure money for some of the noncitizens, several conspirators sold them to members of a third smuggling organization.

A total of 12 others have been convicted in relation to this scheme and received sentences of up to 80 months.

Mexican nationals Quintanilla-Alcocer, 39, and Cibriano-Gonzalez, 22, pleaded guilty in the case resulting in death and have also been sentenced.

HSI led the investigations of both cases. U.S. Border Patrol, the Palmview Police Department and the Texas Department of Public Safety assisted with the case resulting in death. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Lee Fry and Devin Walker prosecuted the cases.

HSI is the principal investigative arm of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, responsible for investigating transnational crime and threats, specifically those criminal organizations that exploit the global infrastructure through which international trade, travel and finance move. HSI’s workforce of more than 8,700 employees consists of more than 6,000 special agents assigned to 237 cities throughout the United States, and 93 overseas locations in 56 countries. HSI’s international presence represents DHS’ largest investigative law enforcement presence abroad and one of the largest international footprints in U.S. law enforcement.