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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
District of Arizona


Alien Smugglers Sentenced For Transportation Resulting In A Roll Over Killing Five People

TUCSON, Ariz. – On Jan. 21, 2013, Armando Ivan Palomares-Castro, a citizen of Mexico, was sentenced to 15 years in federal prison followed by five years of supervised release.  Co-defendant Francisco Javier Labrador-Valderrama, also a citizen of Mexico, was sentenced on Oct. 15, 2013, to nine years, followed by three years of supervised release.  Both defendants pled guilty in June 2013, to transportation of illegal aliens for profit resulting in death.  Chief U.S. District Judge Raner Collins imposed both sentences.

               “As in this case, our Office will continue to aggressively prosecute and seek appropriate sentences for alien smugglers who recklessly place illegal entrants in grave danger and cause needless deaths,” stated U.S. Attorney John S. Leonardo. 

              “This tragic case illustrates the callous disregard for human life that is inherent in the human smuggling trade,” said Matt Allen, special agent in charge of ICE Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Arizona. “HSI is committed to working with our law enforcement partners to identify and dismantle human smuggling networks and bring their members to justice.”

On April 20, 2013, a Chevrolet Tahoe was involved in a rollover crash after failing to yield to US Border Patrol units on Highway 10, southeast of Tucson.  Five of the illegal alien passengers were killed with the other 16 sustaining injuries of varying severity.  The driver of the vehicle, Palomares-Castro, was also identified by some of the passengers as one of the foot guides that brought the group of illegal aliens across the US/Mexico border.  Labrador-Valderrama, an occupant in the vehicle at the time of the crash, initially told agents he was attempting to come into the country and denied being a guide.  Subsequent interviews and evidence identified Labrador-Valderrama as another foot guide.  One of the deceased was identified as a third foot guide. 

Two groups of 20 people, led by the defendants, crossed from Mexico into the United States.  Labrador-Valderrama’s group started two hours before the group led by Palomares-Castro.  The groups merged and trekked the Chiricahua Mountains over a period of six days before a Border Patrol helicopter located the group, causing everyone to scatter.  Those who reunited with the defendants continued to walk until they reached the Tahoe.  With the defendants in the front seat of the vehicle, nine individuals sat in the middle row and nine huddled in the rear cargo area.  When U.S. Border Patrol approached from behind the Tahoe, it accelerated to over 90 miles per hour throwing backpacks out of the Tahoe towards the Border Patrol cars. 

The investigation in this case was conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Homeland Security Investigations and the U.S. Border Patrol from both the Tucson and Wilcox Stations. The prosecution was handled by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Arturo Aguilar and Serra Tsethlikai, District of Arizona, Tucson.

CASE NUMBER:           CR-13-00864                  
RELEASE NUMBER:   2014-004_Palomares-Castro

For more information on the U.S. Attorney’s Office, District of Arizona, visit

Updated January 7, 2015