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Human Smuggling/Trafficking

Mexican man sentenced to more than 8 years in human smuggling conspiracy

PHOENIX – A Mexican man has been sentenced to more than eight years in federal prison for his role in a July 2012 human smuggling conspiracy that resulted in the death of two Guatemalans in a northern Arizona vehicle accident.

Diego DeLeon Chavez, 26, was sentenced Oct. 21 to 97 months in prison by U.S. District Judge G. Murray Snow. The sentence follows a joint probe by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the Arizona Department of Public Safety (DPS).

In addition to the prison term, Chavez will be subject to five years of supervised release. Chavez and his co-defendant, Israel Velasquez, 27, pleaded guilty July 25 to conspiring to harbor and transport illegal aliens, resulting in death. Velasquez is awaiting sentencing.

According to court documents, Chavez operated a human smuggling drop house in Phoenix in July 2012 where he coordinated the receipt of smuggling fees and arranged the transportation of aliens smuggled across the Arizona border to destinations in other parts of the U.S.

On July 22, 2012, Velasquez was transporting 12 smuggled aliens from Chavez’s drop house in a vehicle that rolled over on Interstate 40, east of Holbrook. Two Guatemalans, including a juvenile, died in the accident. Velasquez fled from the accident scene, but was arrested by authorities four days later in Phoenix.