McALLEN, Texas (CN) - Nine people were sentenced to federal prison for an alien smuggling ring that was responsible for the death of an illegal immigrant, the U.S. Attorney's Office said.
The ringleaders Rafael Valles, a U.S citizen living in the McAllen area, and Refugio Reyna-Huerta, a Mexican citizen who lived in Houston, pleaded guilty in 2011 to conspiracy to transport illegal aliens into the United States, prosecutors said in a statement.
"At that time, both admitted to leading an organization responsible for the death of an illegal alien on Feb. 16, 2010. Specifically, on that date, Immigration and Customs Enforcement - Homeland Security Investigations (ICE-HSI) special agents responded to a motor vehicle accident that occurred near Falfurrias, Texas," prosecutors said.
"At the accident scene, agents identified one deceased individual, a Mexican citizen, and a badly damaged Toyota Tundra.
"Further investigation revealed the Tundra was carrying approximately 17 illegal aliens from the McAllen area to Houston, where the illegal aliens would be further transported to other locations throughout the United States.
"However, as the aliens were transported north, the driver of the vehicle, believing that he was being followed by law enforcement, made a sudden turn, causing the Tundra to flip over.
"Further investigation revealed that Valles and Reyna-Huerta organized the transportation by, among other things, renting the load vehicle, paying drivers and scouts and renting a stash house in McAllen which housed the 17 illegal aliens mentioned above and hundreds of others who were transported by the organization over time."
Valles was sentenced this week to 10 years and 5 months in prison and Reyna-Huerta to 8 years.
Seven other people were sentenced for transporting illegal aliens to the stash house, renting the house, keeping track of payments made by the aliens' family members to determine who would be taken north and conducting counter-surveillance.
Their sentences ranged from 23 to 57 months in federal prison.
The driver of the Toyota Tundra, 24-year-old Mario Salinas of Mexico was sentenced to 75 months.
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