Mexican National Charged In Deaths Of Smuggled Aliens
CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – Idelfonso Garcia-Benitez, 20, of Michoacan, Mexico, has been charged with the smuggling of a group of 14 Illegal aliens that left seven dead and one in critical condition, United States Attorney Kenneth Magidson announced today along with Brian M. Moskowitz, special agent in charge of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).
The indictment, returned just moments ago, charges Garcia-Benitez with one count of conspiring to transport aliens, 14 counts of transporting an alien and one count of illegal re-entry after deportation.
According to documents filed of record in the case, on March 20, 2013, at approximately 11:00 p.m., a Kingsville Police Department officer observed a pick-up truck violate state traffic law by disregarding a stop sign. The officer attempted to conduct a traffic stop on this vehicle, but the vehicle fled, leading to a brief pursuit.
The driver crashed into a vehicle barrier on General Cavazos Avenue in Kleberg County that had been deployed by the Kingsville Naval Air Station. A total of 15 illegal aliens were discovered at the scene. Of those, Garcia-Benitez was identified as the driver. Seven were killed and one remains in critical condition.
“The tragic loss of life in this case shows the very real risks that people face when they put themselves in the hands of a smuggler,” said Moskowitz. “Those responsible for the illegal movement of people into and through our country place personal profit ahead of public safety and border protection. They are driven by greed with little regard for the health and well-being of their human cargo and that can be a deadly combination.”
Garcia-Benitez was arrested at the scene of the accident. He has been in custody since that time, where he will remain pending further criminal proceedings. He is expected to appear for an arraignment hearing before U.S. Magistrate Judge Owsley early next week.
If convicted, Garcia-Benitez faces up to 20 years in prison and a possible $250,000 fine.
The case is being investigated by HSI and prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Jeffrey S. Miller.
An indictment is a formal accusation of criminal conduct, not evidence.
A defendant is presumed innocent unless convicted through due process of law.