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Human Smuggling/Trafficking

South Texas man sentenced to almost 10 years in prison for alien smuggling resulting in a death

CORPUS CHRISTI — A south Texas man was sentenced Thursday to nine years and seven months in federal prison for his role in an alien smuggling and harboring scheme that resulted in the death of a 24-year-old Mexican national in September 2011.

This sentence was announced by U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson, Southern District of Texas. The investigation was conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

Lewey Martinez, 32, of Falfurrias, Texas, was sentenced to 115 months in prison by Senior U.S. District Judge Janis Graham Jack. Martinez will also be required to serve three years of supervised release after he completes his prison term. He pleaded guilty to the charges Nov. 14, 2012.

At his plea hearing last year, the government detailed that for five years Martinez coordinated the transportation of aliens around the U.S. Border Patrol checkpoint in Falfurrias. On the evening of Sept. 15, 2011, he arranged for about 20 illegal aliens to hike around the checkpoint assisted by guides. Aftewards, the aliens were driven to a stash house on Martinez's property.

Shortly after the group's arrival, two brush guides drove to the stash house with an additional alien who had died, or nearly died, from exposure and dehydration. When it became apparent the victim was deceased, Martinez and two others loaded the victim's body into a pickup truck and left it at a public intersection. Martinez then called the emergency operator from a payphone and directed police to the body.

Following his arrest, Martinez admitted his role in the smuggling operation and his involvement in disposing Gonzalez's body.

Martinez will remain in custody pending transfer to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near future.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeffrey D. Preston, Southern District of Texas, prosecuted this case.