Two sentenced for their roles in murder of man who blew the whistle on an illegal labor conspiracy
Third defendant awaits sentencing
BRUNSWICK, GA.: Two men have been sentenced to federal prison for their roles in the murder of a whistleblower who exposed a multi-million-dollar scheme that fraudulently employed undocumented workers.
Pablo Rangel-Rubio, 53, of Rincon, was sentenced to 584 months in prison after previously pleading guilty to charges including Aiding and Abetting the Retaliation Against a Witness, while Higinio Perez-Bravo, 52, of Savannah, was sentenced to 240 months in prison after previously pleading guilty to Conspiracy to Commit Murder for Hire, said David H. Estes, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Georgia. U.S District Court Judge Lisa Godbey Wood also ordered Perez-Bravo to pay restitution of $1,329,412.80 to the family of the victim, and ordered Rangel-Rubio to pay $1,351,217.05 in restitution to the victim’s family and to another worker for lost wages. Both Perez-Bravo and Rangel-Rubio are citizens of Mexico illegally present in the United States and are subject to deportation after completion of their prison terms. There is no parole in the federal system.
A third defendant, Rangel-Rubio’s brother, Juan Rangel-Rubio, 45, of Rincon – also an illegal alien – faces a statutory minimum sentence of life in prison after being found guilty at trial in October 2022 on charges including Conspiracy to Retaliate Against a Witness, and Conspiracy to Kill a Witness. His sentencing date has not yet been set.
“These sentences represent a measure of justice for Eliud Montoya, a brave man murdered by criminals protecting their lucrative and exploitative labor-trafficking enterprise,” said U.S. Attorney Estes. “Our law enforcement partners did outstanding work to identify and hold accountable those responsible for this brutal murder.”
As reflected in court documents and evidence, the three men conspired 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.
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, 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 from an estimated 100 illegal alien laborers.
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.
“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.”
Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) led the investigation 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.