CORPUS CHRISTI–Two Brooks County men and a Mexican national were sent to federal prison Tuesday for their involvement in an immigrant smuggling incident that led to the death of an elderly after they crashed a vehicle in a pursuit.
Federal prosecutors tell South Texas Today Romeo Cantu and Marcos Adrian, both of Falfurrias and Evarardo Hernandez-Salazar from Mexico were sentenced to 96 months, 52 months, and 64 months respectively.
The driver of an SUV, who was carrying smugglers and undocumented immigrants and driving at a high rate of speed, was attempting to elude police officers, when he crashed the vehicle into a Falfurrias home last August, authorities said.
In handing down the sentences, the federal judge noted he hoped the sentences in this tragic case would be a deterrent to others engaging in this all-too-common crime.
A Brooks County Sheriff’s deputy tried to make a traffic stop around 3:30 am on a Chevrolet Suburban for an unsafe lane change and failing to signal. The driver initially stopped, but as the deputy approached the vehicle, the driver accelerated rapidly.
Shortly thereafter, the SUV crashed into and went completely through the victim’s home. The victim was struck and killed instantly.
Before law enforcement authorities arrived, all of the occupants of the SUV fled from the vehicle.
Officers soon located one of the smugglers – Adrian – after a brief foot pursuit and found the seven illegal immigrants hiding in the bed of a nearby truck.
The driver of the vehicle, an individual known only as “Perico,” escaped.
Investigating agents learned the defendants, along with Perico, were involved in a conspiracy to transport illegals within the United States and actively participated in the smuggling operation.
Evidence revealed that Hernandez-Salazar picked up the undocumented immigrants on Aug. 5 and drove them to a motel in Donna.
Several hours later they were taken north in a station wagon driven by Perico. Hernandez-Salazar, Cantu and Adrian provided cover for the vehicle until a Texas Department of Public Safety trooper initiated a traffic stop, at which time Perico and the illegals exited the station wagon and fled into the brush.
Perico guided the aliens around the checkpoint and made contact with the Hernandez-Salazar, Cantu and Adrian by cellular telephone. Adrian drove from Cantu’s residence to the designated pick-up spot, where Perico and the immigrants boarded the SUV.
Perico shoved Adrian from the driver’s seat to the front passenger seat, took the driver’s seat himself and started driving.
All of the defendants gave statements to law enforcement agents and admitted their own involvement and that of their co-conspirators in the immigrant smuggling scheme.
The illegals were interviewed and provided details regarding the smuggling attempt, including that they yelled at Perico to stop the SUV after he had accelerated rapidly in his attempt to escape.
Hernandez-Salazar, Cantu and Adrian have been since last August and will be assigned to a federal prison.