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December 20, 2023El Paso, TX, United StatesHuman Smuggling/Trafficking

Human smuggler sentenced to more than 11 years for death of 2 migrants following HSI El Paso investigation

EL PASO, Texas – The third member of a group charged in a human smuggling case was sentenced on Dec. 19 in a federal court in El Paso to 135 months in prison for her role in an ongoing conspiracy that resulted in the death of two migrants.

The case was investigated by Homeland Security Investigations El Paso with the assistance from the U.S. Border Patrol Big Bend, Texas, and Tucson, Arizona, sectors, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Enforcement and Removal Operations Dallas, the Drug Enforcement Administration, Texas Department of Public Safety, Dallas Police Department, and Hudspeth Country Sheriff’s Office assisted with the investigation.

According to court documents, Guadalupe Quezada, 35, of Mesa, Arizona, along with co-defendants Veronica Quezada, 39, also of Mesa, and Elizabeth Miranda Lozano, 39, of Dallas, actively participated in an ongoing conspiracy to bring in, transport and harbor undocumented immigrants into the United States from Mexico from on or about November 2019 through on or about August 2021.

The organization smuggled groups of migrants into the United States by traversing the border across the Chihuahuan Desert near Van Horn, Texas. Foot guides would direct the migrants to walk through the desert and rendezvous with drivers who then transported the immigrants to stash houses or staging areas for further harboring by stash house operators. During the time of the conspiracy, the organization twice abandoned migrants who were unable to keep pace with the group. An investigation revealed that the abandonment of the migrants under the harsh conditions resulted in their deaths.

Guadalupe Quezada would receive human smuggling proceeds in bulk as well as through financial institutions and redirect them to promote human smuggling and to invest in real property. In addition to imprisonment, she also forfeits three Phoenix properties. She and her two co-defendants pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to bring an alien to the United States resulting in death.

“As demonstrated by these defendants, human smugglers have a callous disregard for the value of life,” said HSI El Paso Special Agent in Charge Francisco B. Burrola. “Tragically, their inhumane practices all too often result in serious injury or death. HSI will continue to work closely with our law enforcement partners to aggressively pursue transnational criminal organizations that jeopardize the lives of others for their personal profit."

On Dec. 13, Veronica Quezada was sentenced to 63 months in federal prison. Her role was to provide logistical support to foot guides, drivers and others by registering vehicles that would be used to facilitate human smuggling. She traveled daily to the United States from Mexico to oversee operations on behalf of the organization.

Lozano also was sentenced to 97 months in federal prison on Dec. 13. Her role was to transport and harbor migrants in staging areas prior to releasing them to their destination. She relocated to Dallas from Arizona to manage the stash house on behalf of the organization.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jose Luis Acosta and Patricia Acosta prosecuted the case.

For more news and information on HSI’s efforts to aggressively investigate human smuggling and human trafficking in West Texas and the state of New Mexico, follow us on X, formerly known as Twitter, @HSIElPaso.

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.