News and Press Releases


March 24, 2010


WICHITA, KAN. - The driver of a van carrying illegal aliens including a 2-year-old girl separated from her mother has been sentenced to 18 months federal prison, U.S. Attorney Lanny Welch said today.

Santos Tomas Ochoa-Bello, 29, a citizen of Mexico, pleaded guilty to one count of unlawfully transporting aliens in the United States. In his plea, he admitted that on Nov. 24, 2009, he was driving a Dodge Caravan when he was stopped by the Kansas Highway Patrol on Highway 156 in Barton County, Kan. The minivan contained 13 undocumented foreign nationals, six of whom were juveniles traveling without a parent or guardian, including a 2-year-old girl who had been separated from her mother at some point when they crossed from Mexico to the United States.

Most of the passengers were citizens of Mexico and none of them were in the United States legally. Though Ochoa-Bello did not have a driver’s license, he was driving the passengers from Phoenix, Ariz., to locations in Pennsylvania and New Jersey where they hoped to find work.

When Ochoa-Bello is released from prison he will be deported and will not be eligible to apply to re-enter the United States.


Welch commended the Kansas Highway Patrol, Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Assistant U.S. Attorney Brent Anderson for their work on the case.