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Press Release

Recruiter Admits Guilt in Smuggling Death of Two Migrants in Trunk at San Diego-Tijuana Border

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

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Patrick J. Bumatay (619) 546-8450 and Michael Wheat (619) 546-8437


SAN DIEGO – Eduard Ervemac Saavedra pleaded guilty in federal court today to charges resulting from the deaths of two unauthorized immigrants who perished in the trunk of a car at the San Ysidro Port of Entry in August 2014.

As part of the plea agreement, Saavedra, a citizen of Peru, admitted to enticing Nicholas George Zakov, 43, to smuggle undocumented aliens into the United States with the prospect of $3,500 cash.  After recruiting Zakov, on the morning of August 12, 2014, Saavedra arranged for two Mexican citizens, Tarcisio Casas-Blanco and Jose Aurelio Quiroz-Casas, to be hidden in the trunk of Zakov’s Dodge Challenger in Tijuana, Mexico.

Saavedra then directed Zakov to enter the United States through the San Ysidro Port of Entry with Casas-Blanco and Quiroz-Casas remaining in the trunk, exposing them to rising temperatures with little ventilation. U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers later discovered Casas-Blanco and Quiroz-Casas unresponsive inside the Challenger’s trunk. Medical attention was immediately sought for the two, but they died a short while later of hyperthermia and mechanical asphyxiation.

Zakov, a U.S. citizen, previously pleaded guilty to alien smuggling charges for his role in the deaths of Casas-Blanco and Quiroz-Casas and was sentenced to 84 months in prison by U.S. District Judge Anthony J. Battaglia.

The investigation and arrest of Saavedra was the result of the collaboration of Homeland Security Investigations, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, San Diego Police Department, and the Baja California State Preventive Police Department.

Saavedra pleaded guilty to two counts of encouraging and inducing illegal aliens resulting in death and two counts of bringing illegal aliens into the United States for financial gain. Saavedra faces up to life imprisonment, a mandatory minimum sentence of three years in prison, and a $250,000 fine. Saavedra is scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Battaglia on July 25, 2016 at 11 a.m.

DEFENDANT                                              Criminal Case No. 14CR3066-AJB

Eduard Ervemac Saavedra                             Age: 44           Tijuana, Mexico

            a.k.a. Edward Saavedra

            a.k.a. Reenzo Saavedra-Cormeyo


Counts 1 and 2:           Encouraging and Inducing Illegal Aliens, Aiding and Abetting, Resulting in Death, 8 U.S.C. §1324(a)(1)(A)(iv), (v)(II), and (a)(1)(B)(iv)                           

Counts 3 and 4:           Bringing in Illegal Aliens for Financial Gain, Aiding and Abetting 8 U.S.C. §1324(a)(2)(B)(ii) and 18 U.S.C. § 2


U.S. Customs and Border Protection

Homeland Security Investigations

San Diego Police Department

Baja California State Preventive Police Department


Updated May 12, 2016

Human Smuggling
Press Release Number: CAS16-0512-Saavedra