LAREDO, Texas – Three smugglers have been sentenced to
federal prison for transporting illegal aliens that resulted in one death,
announced U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Patrick. One alien died and two others received
injuries resulting from a vehicle rollover.
Guillermo Venegas, 19, pleaded guilty Sept. 1, 2016, while
Edgardo Diaz, 20, and Antonio Aguilar, 20, entered their pleas April 6 and June
24, 2016, respectively.
Today, U.S. District Judge Diana Saldaña ordered Venegas to
serve 70 months, while Diaz and Aguilar each received 87-month-terms of federal
imprisonment. Venegas, Diaz and Aguilar will also serve supervised release
terms of three, five and four years, respectively, following their sentences.
In handing down the sentences, Judge Saldaña noted that it was unfortunate the
defendants had chosen to become involved in such a serious crime which resulted
in the death of one undocumented alien and injuries to others. After statements
from each defendant expressing remorse for the events, the court noted that
each attempted to downplay their roles by recruiting other persons and that
they demonstrated poor judgment in recruiting or involving juveniles. On
several occasions, Judge Saldaña reminded the defendants that “the reality is
that someone died.”
At the time of their pleas, the three admitted to conspiring
to transport three aliens to Laredo. Aguilar recruited Venegas to transport the
aliens. Venegas then recruited a juvenile to drive and use his parent’s van as
the load vehicle.
During the early evening of Jan. 31, 2016, the three
defendants set out on Mines Road in three separate vehicles to locate and pick
up aliens who had just crossed from Mexico by wading the Rio Grande River. Diaz
and Aguilar scouted for law enforcement in their respective vehicles, while
communicating with Aguilar who was in the van providing directions to the
After arriving at the pick-up location and determining the
area was clear of law enforcement, Venegas and the juvenile picked up three
aliens and drove towards Laredo, while Diaz and Aguilar continued to monitor
contact with law enforcement.
Border Patrol (BP) agents in marked units encountered the
van, but Venegas and the juvenile failed to stop, attempted to cross the median
at a high rate of speed and overturned. Venegas and two alien passengers were
injured, while another alien died at the scene.
The defendants have been and will remain in custody pending
transfer to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near
The Webb County District Attorney’s Office prosecuted the
juvenile driver and two others.
BP, Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security
Investigations, Texas Department of Public Safety, Laredo Police Department and
the Webb County Medical Examiner conducted the investigation. Assistant U.S.
Attorney Homero Ramirez prosecuted the case.