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Press Release

Illegal alien sentenced to life in prison for murdering whistleblower in labor conspiracy

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of Georgia
Two co-defendants already serving prison terms

BRUNSWICK, GA.: An illegal alien who participated a multi-million-dollar scheme to fraudulently employ undocumented workers, then murdered a whistleblower who attempted to expose the scheme, has been sentenced to life in prison.

Juan Rangel-Rubio, 46, of Rincon, a citizen of Mexico, was sentenced to life in prison for his role in the 2017 execution-style murder of Eliud Montoya, a United States citizen who reported Rangel-Rubio’s illegal activities to the federal government, said Jill E. Steinberg, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Georgia. U.S. District Court Judge Lisa Godbey Wood also ordered Rangel-Rubio to pay $1,351,217.05 in restitution. 

“Eliud Montoya was murdered for doing the right thing and revealing Juan Rangel-Rubio’s scheme to profit off his use of undocumented workers,” said U.S. Attorney Steinberg. “As a result of the diligent efforts of our law enforcement partners, Juan Rangel-Rubio will be held accountable for his despicable crimes.”

In October 2022, Rangel-Rubio was found guilty after a five-day trial in U.S. District Court of Conspiracy to Retaliate Against a Witness; Conspiracy to Kill a Witness; Conspiracy to Conceal, Harbor and Shield Illegal Aliens; and Money Laundering Conspiracy.

Two co-defendants are serving prison terms for their roles in the conspiracy. Rangel-Rubio’s brother, Pablo Rangel-Rubio, 53, of Rincon, was sentenced to 584 months in prison after pleading guilty to Conspiracy to Conceal, Harbor and Shield Illegal Aliens; Money Laundering Conspiracy; three counts of Money Laundering Transactions Over $10,000; and Aiding and Abetting Retaliation Against a Witness.   Higinio Perez-Bravo, 52, of Savannah, was sentenced to 240 months in prison after pleading guilty to Conspiracy to Commit Murder for Hire. Both men are citizens of Mexico illegally present in the United States and will be subject to deportation after completing their prison terms. There is no parole in the federal system.

Four other defendants were sentenced to prison terms of up to 24 months for charges related to the investigation, including conspiracy and illegal firearms possession.

As reflected in court records and evidence presented at trial, Pablo Rangel-Rubio worked as a supervisor at Wolf Tree, a contract company that performed tree-cutting services on utility rights-of-way. He and his brother hired illegal aliens to work for the company, then routed the workers paychecks to their own bank accounts where they skimmed a portion of the pay for themselves. They also created fake employee accounts and directed that pay to themselves. As a result of this scheme, the conspirators netted more than $3.5 million. 

Montoya saw his colleagues being mistreated and complained to the company and to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. After Montoya blew the whistle on the scheme, Pablo Rangel-Rubio arranged for 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 Montoya to death outside Montoya’s home. 

“This sentence means that the consequences of Rangel-Rubio’s actions have caught up with him and he will no longer be able to hurt anyone,” said Special Agent in Charge Katrina W. Berger, who oversees Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) operations in Georgia and Alabama. “I am proud of the work that our great law enforcement partners did to successfully close this case and the great work that they do to protect our communities.”

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 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 April 10, 2023

Violent Crime
Human Trafficking
Firearms Offenses
Identity Theft
Press Release Number: 29-33