SAN DIEGO (CN) – Coyotes, or smugglers of humans, are earning a good living these days: $4,000 to $5,000 a head for driving people from the California desert to Orange County, according to a federal indictment against eight men who were arrested this week.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office said the eight men “were drivers or recruited drivers to pick up illegal aliens at designated locations in San Diego County and transport them to their sponsors in Orange County for payment; the fee ranged from $4,000 to $5,000 per illegal alien.”
The indictment accuses the men of conspiring to smuggle aliens from Mexico to Orange County, but prosecutors said their job was to pick them up from somewhere near Jacumba, in Eastern San Diego County, and drive them to Orange County.
In the early 1980s, coyotes charged as little as $50 a head to smuggle people over the border.
In the early 1990s, one professional coyote charged $1,000 to $1,500 to smuggle people all the way from El Salvador to Texas.
Seven of the men arrested Wednesday live in Santa Ana, one in Gardena. They range in age from 26 to 33, though one outlier is 57.
It is unlikely that the drivers got to keep the entire $4,000 to $5,000 per person, according to a man with experience in the trade. Higher-ups probably got the lion’s share.
Conspiracy to transport illegal aliens is punishable by up to 5 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Arrested and charged were Gil Reyes-Cruz, 33; Javier Cruz-Renteria, 30; Procopio Gudino, 31, of Gardena; Francisco Alejandro Ramirez, 26; Lester Eckstein-Paz, 27; Jose Jimenez-Magana, 57; Miguel Angel Torres Jr., 33; and Rodrigo Roy Romero, 29.