Skip to main content
Press Release

Convicted Alien Smuggler Sentenced to 97 Months in Custody for Event that Left Two People Dead

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of California

Assistant U. S. Attorney Benjamin A. Bish (619) 546-8662    


SAN DIEGO – Jorge Luis Martinez-Hernandez, a Mexican citizen with a prior alien smuggling conviction, was sentenced in federal court yesterday to more than eight years in prison for his role in a smuggling incident that left two undocumented immigrants dead.

The sentence was handed down by U.S. District Court Judge Marilyn L. Huff following the defendant’s guilty plea in April to eight counts of Bringing in Certain Aliens resulting in Death and Bringing in Certain Aliens for Financial Gain, all in violation of Title 8, United States Code, Section 1324.

“Smugglers see customers as dollar signs and have no concern for their safety and well-being,” said U.S. Attorney Adam Braverman. “This office is committed to prosecuting smugglers who exploit immigrants for financial gain.”

“This should give us all pause when thinking about the blatant disregard for human life,” said San Diego Sector Chief Patrol Agent Rodney Scott. “To tell people to cross a freeway in complete darkness with cars driving at 65-plus miles per hour is unconscionable. The men and women of the U.S. Border Patrol remain vigilant in our pursuit of these smugglers and the international criminal organizations they work for.”

“Martinez-Hernandez’s actions in this event led to the unfortunate deaths of two people. His conviction and sentence brings some closure to an unnecessary tragedy that involved exploiting individuals for his financial gain,” said David Shaw, Special Agent in Charge for Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in San Diego. “This tragic case has once again heightened HSI’s commitment to enforce all criminal immigration law and we will continue our efforts to investigate and ultimately dismantle the transnational alien smuggling organizations.”

According to his plea agreement, on September 17, 2017, at approximately 1:45 a.m., Martinez-Hernandez guided eight undocumented individuals - five adults and three minors - through a hole in a wall near the San Ysidro, California Port of Entry.  Martinez-Hernandez and the group of eight entered a vehicle waiting on the U.S. side of the border near the hole, which was next to the southbound side of the Interstate 5.  Martinez-Hernandez took control as the driver and then made a U-turn into the oncoming traffic in the southbound lanes of the interstate.  He then drove north in the southbound lanes against traffic. Customs and Border Protection Officers began pursuit of the vehicle, driving north in the northbound lanes to track Martinez-Hernandez’s movements on the southbound side of the interstate.  Martinez-Hernandez then stopped the vehicle on the side of the interstate and directed the eight to follow him to another area. He admitted to investigators that he did this because his coconspirators planned to pick the group up in other vehicles to take them farther into the U.S. illegally. 

The investigation revealed that Martinez-Hernandez led the group of eight on foot across the northbound lanes of the Interstate 5, over the dividing fence, and across the southbound lanes. A vehicle travelling south at or near highway speed in the southbound lanes struck two of the undocumented individuals in the group as they ran across the interstate. The collision occurred near the Camino De La Plaza exit on Interstate 5.  The two were pronounced dead at the scene.  Martinez-Hernandez and the six remaining undocumented individuals were later apprehended when they were found hiding near the southbound side of the interstate and the Camino De La Plaza exit. 

Martinez-Hernandez admitted to guiding the eight during this event.  He further admitted that the eight undocumented individuals, including one who was from China, agreed to pay between $7,000 to $13,000 to be smuggled into the U.S.  Martinez-Hernandez admitted that he was going to receive $1,000 per undocumented individual that he successfully smuggled into the U.S. illegally.

DEFENDANTS                                            Case Number: 17cr3288-H                          

Jorge Luis Martinez-Hernandez                     Age: 33                                   Tijuana, B.C., Mexico


2 Counts - Bringing in Certain Aliens Resulting in Death – Title 8, U.S.C., Section 1324(a)(1)(A)(i) and (a)(1)(B)(iv), a Class A felony

6 Counts - Bringing in Certain Aliens for Financial Gain and Aiding and Abetting – Title 8, U.S.C., Section 1324(a)(2)(B)(ii) and Title 18, U.S.C., Section 2, a Class A felony


Homeland Security Investigations

U.S. Customs and Border Protection

U.S. Border Patrol

California Highway Patrol

San Diego Fire Department

San Diego County Medical Examiner’s Office



Updated July 17, 2018

Human Smuggling
Press Release Number: CAS18-0717-Martinez