LAREDO, Texas – A 32-year-old man now faces up to
life in prison after pleading guilty to transporting aliens resulting in death,
announced U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Patrick.
Morales-Melendez, a Guatemalan national who illegally entered the United States
himself, admitted to the charges today before U.S. Magistrate Judge Diana Song
Aug. 22, authorities encountered 12 individuals near Zebra Creek in Laredo. The
investigation determined they were all undocumented aliens who had illegally
entered the country by crossing the Rio Grande river. Several identified
Morales-Melendez as the guide who led them into the United States.
man had been a part of the group, but had died along the way. The investigation
revealed the victim had been struggling in the water, but Morales-Melendez did
not offer aid or use a rope to help him. Morales-Melendez denied hearing anyone
call for help. While some lifejackets were available, there were not
enough for everyone. The victim’s body was recovered on the Mexican side of the
river the following day.
admitted to illegally entering the United States with the group and acting as
the foot guide on the American side of the river. As part of his plea,
Morales-Mendez acknowledged receiving a discount on his smuggling fee in
exchange for acting as the foot guide once the group crossed into the United
has been and will remain in custody pending sentencing, which is set for March
24, 2020, before U.S. District Judge Marina Garcia-Marmolejo. At that time, he
faces up the life in prison as well as a possible $250,000 fine.
Border Patrol initiated the investigation in conjunction
with Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Bukiewicz is prosecuting the case.