Two Washington residents suspected of transporting illegal aliens who crossed into United States from Canada appear in court
GREAT FALLS—Three Mexico citizens who admitted trying to smuggle aliens across the border from Canada into Glacier County in Montana last year were sentenced this week to time served, U.S. Attorney Kurt Alme said.
Samuel Velasco-Tovar, 28, who was a foot guide, and Omero Banderas-Rodriguez, 39, who was a driver, both were sentenced on Wednesday to 158 days of time served. Alberto Guillen-Gordillo, 23, who was intended to be a driver, was sentenced today to 159 days of time served. All three defendants pleaded guilty in February to transportation of illegal aliens.
Chief U.S. District Judge Brian M. Morris presided. Judge Morris referred all defendants to Immigration and Customs Enforcement for deportation proceedings.
“Human smuggling across the Canadian border is dangerous both to those who are being smuggled and to Montanans who may cross paths with the smugglers. Those who are smuggled and cannot pay the fee may be forced to work to pay it off. Those who prey on the aspirations of those from other countries wanting a better life for themselves, putting them and Montanans at risk, will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law,” U.S. Attorney Alme said.
The prosecution said in court records that on Nov. 17 at about 11:15 p.m., Border Patrol agents conducted traffic stops of two vehicles south of the United States-Canada border in Glacier County. In the first vehicle, which was a Chevrolet Suburban, the agent found the driver, Banderas-Rodriguez, and nine passengers. All of the passengers admitted to being in the United States illegally. During the stop of the second vehicle, a Chevrolet Tahoe, all of the occupants ran into a nearby field. Agents found eight individuals within a few minutes. Each of the individuals admitted to being in the United States illegally.
In all, law enforcement transported 19 suspects to the Sweetgrass Border Patrol Station for processing. Four of the transported illegal aliens told agents they had paid from $4,000 to $4,750 to be smuggled into the United States and identified Velasco-Tovar as the foot guide who helped them cross into the United States.
Banderas-Rodriguez rented hotel rooms in Cut Bank prior to this pickup, was one of the contacts prior to the trip to cross the border and was one of the drivers at the pickup. He told law enforcement he would be paid $2,000 for driving an SUV full of aliens from Montana to Utah.
Shortly after the arrests, a Border Patrol agent and Glacier County Sheriff’s deputy went to a Cut Bank hotel where the subjects had been staying to determine if any remaining occupant in one of the hotel rooms was in violation of trafficking laws.
Co-defendant Guillen-Gordillo answered the door, identified himself and was taken into custody. Guillen-Gordillo admitted to being in the United States illegally. He rented the two SUVs from a Utah rental company. A co-defendant identified Guillen-Gordillo as the driver of a third vehicle but that he stayed at the hotel because he was not feeling well.
A fourth co-defendant, Josue Bermudez-Lopez, of Mexico, pleaded guilty to illegally transporting aliens and was sentenced to four months in prison.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Paulette Stewart, Jeff Starnes and Ethan Plaut are prosecuting the case, which was investigated by the U.S. Border Patrol and the Glacier County Sheriff’s Office.
Clair Johnson Howard
Public Information Officer