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Press Release

Guilty verdict on all counts for illegal alien who murdered whistleblower in an illegal labor conspiracy

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of Georgia
Defendant faces mandatory sentence of life in prison

BRUNSWICK, GA.: A U.S. District Court jury returned a unanimous verdict of guilty to all charges lodged against an illegal alien for his role in a conspiracy to kill a whistleblower who exposed a multi-million-dollar scheme to fraudulently employ undocumented workers.

Juan Rangel-Rubio, 45, of Rincon, a citizen of Mexico illegally present in the United States, was found guilty after a five-day trial of Conspiracy to Retaliate Against a Witness; Conspiracy to Kill a Witness; Conspiracy to Conceal, Harbor and Shield Illegal Aliens; and Money Laundering Conspiracy, said David H. Estes, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Georgia. The charges carry a statutory minimum sentence of life in prison, and there is no parole in the federal system.

Two co-defendants – Higinio Perez-Bravo, 52, of Savannah, and Rangel-Rubio’s brother, Pablo Rangel-Rubio, 53, of Rincon, await sentencing after pleading guilty in the conspiracy to kill Eliud Montoya, a United States citizen who blew the whistle on a scheme of hiring and mistreating illegal aliens and who was murdered August 19, 2017, near his home in Garden City, Ga.

“This jury verdict brings resounding resolution to any doubts about the culpability of these defendants in this horrific conspiracy to kill a man who threatened their illegal and lucrative labor-trafficking scheme,” said U.S. Attorney Estes. “We commend our law enforcement partners who solved this brutal murder and paved the way to holding these criminals accountable.”

As reflected in court records and evidence presented to the jury, Pablo Rangel-Rubio worked as a supervisor at Wolf Tree – a contract company that performed tree-cutting services on utility rights-of-way. Working with his brother, Juan Rangel-Rubio – also a Mexican citizen illegally present in the United States – the two schemed to hire illegal aliens to work for the company, and then routed the illegal aliens’ paychecks to their own bank accounts where they skimmed a portion of the pay for themselves. As a result of this scheme, the conspirators netted more than $3.5 million. 

Mr. Montoya, a United States citizen who also worked at Wolf Tree, saw his colleagues being mistreated and complained to the company and to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. After Mr. Montoya blew the whistle on the scheme, Pablo Rangel-Rubio arranged for Mr. Montoya’s murder by paying Perez-Bravo for the use of his vehicles and to act as the getaway driver when Juan Rangel-Rubio shot Mr. Montoya to death.  

Sentencings for all three defendants will begin in November in U.S. District Court.

“This sentence means that criminals like these defendants will not escape justice and will no longer be able to victimize anyone,” said Special Agent in Charge Katrina W. Berger, who oversees Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) operations in Georgia and Alabama. “We are thankful for the hard work done by all of the agencies involved in this case and hope that the verdict brings comfort to the victims and their families.”

The investigation was led by Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) with assistance from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), the FBI, the U.S. Marshals Service, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI), the Garden City Police Department, the Effingham County Sheriff’s Office, and the Chatham County Sheriff’s Office, and is being prosecuted for the United States by Southern District of Georgia Assistant U.S. Attorneys, including Tania D. Groover.


Barry L. Paschal, Public Affairs Officer: 912-652-4422

Updated November 1, 2022

Violent Crime
Press Release Number: 143-22