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Human Smuggling/Trafficking

Human smuggler arrested after 2 of his alien clients die in the desert

SELLS, Ariz. — A Mexican citizen tracked down by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Border Patrol agents Thursday is facing multiple federal counts related to human smuggling resulting in death following an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

Marcos Soto-Mendoza, 41, is accused of leading a group of five illegal aliens through the desert on the Tohono O'odham Nation, abandoning two of them to die after they succumbed to dehydration. A concerned citizen who had encountered one member of the smuggled group called CBP Border Patrol agents from the Ajo Station to request assistance. Agents responded to the scene and found two deceased individuals in the desert approximately 2 ½ miles west of the Village of Pisinemo. CBP Border Patrol was then able to locate Soto and rescue the remaining aliens, who were all in need of medical assistance.

"Human smugglers are willing to risk their 'customers' lives in the brutal heat of the Sonoran Desert," said Rodney Irby, assistant special agent in charge of ICE HSI in Sells. "Unfortunately, these inhumane practices all too often end in tragedies like this. At least in this case, the families of the deceased will know that someone will be held accountable for the deaths of their loved ones."

This arrest and prosecution closely follows a similar incident June 23, when CBP Border Patrol agents apprehended Gaspar Osorio-Carbajal, 37, after one of the aliens he is accused of smuggling through the desert also succumbed to the excessive desert heat. Osorio is also facing charges of human smuggling resulting in death for that incident.

A criminal complaint is simply the method by which a person is charged with criminal activity and raises no inference of guilt. An individual is presumed innocent until competent evidence is presented to a jury that establishes guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.