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April 26, 2022Laredo, TX, United StatesHuman Smuggling/Trafficking

ICE HSI, federal partner investigation results in the sentencing of 2 men convicted for a deadly human smuggling event

LAREDO, Texas — Two citizens of Mexico were sentenced to five years in prison for their convictions of conspiracy to transport noncitizens which resulted in multiple deaths, following an investigation conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) with assistance from U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and the Laredo Police Department (LPD).

Fabian Hernandez, 29, Emmanuel Ferral-Tonche, 20, both of Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas, Mexico, were sentenced April 26 in federal courts to 60 months. Both are expected to face removal proceedings upon completion their sentence. At the hearing Tuesday, the court heard additional evidence that neither man attempted to help look for or offer water to the noncitizens they smuggled despite the great heat. Hernandez and Ferral-Tonche pleaded guilty Dec. 30, 2021.

"The tragic loss of life in this case is an example of the very real risks people face when they put their lives in the hands of smugglers," said Special Agent in Charge Shane Folden, HSI San Antonio. "Those responsible for illegally moving people through our country place personal profit ahead of public safety. Driven by greed, these criminals have little regard for the health and well-being of the individuals they smuggle, which can be a deadly combination.”

According to court documents, on June 9, 2021, Hernandez and Ferral-Tonche marched a group of approximately two dozen individuals through the hot south Texas brush. Some were unable to keep going. At no time did Hernandez or Ferral-Tonche offer water or attempt to look for anyone who had fallen behind or gotten lost. Authorities responded to multiple 911 emergency calls coming from the Hachar Ranch property in Webb County. Law enforcement discovered 24 individuals illegally present in the United States who had become lost at that location. They identified Hernandez and Ferral-Tonche as the smugglers. Law enforcement also found the remains of three deceased people. Authorities determined Hernandez and Ferral-Tonche had guided at least two of them before they succumbed to dehydration and hyperthermia while traveling on foot.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Francisco J. Rodriguez, Southern District of Texas, prosecuted the case.

HSI San Antonio continues to address the serious public safety threat posed by human smuggling organizations and their reckless disregard for the health and safety of the people they exploit. To report suspicious smuggling activity, you are urged to call 1-866-348-2423.

HSI is a directorate of ICE and the principal investigative arm of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), 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 over 10,400 employees consists of more than 7,100 special agents assigned to 220 cities throughout the United States, and 80 overseas locations in 53 countries. HSI’s international presence represents DHS’s largest investigative law enforcement presence abroad and one of the largest international footprints in U.S. law enforcement.

Updated: 04/28/2022