Alien Smugglers Get Hefty Sentences for Smuggling Venture that Led to Death
BROWNSVILLE, Texas – A 38-year-old undocumented alien from Oaxaca, Mexico, who had been living in Brownsville has been ordered to prison on immigration charges that led to a death of a woman, announced Acting U.S. Attorney Abe Martinez. A Brownsville federal jury convicted Galdino Jose Ruiz-Hernandez Jan. 11, 2017, after a two-day trial.
Today, U.S. District Judge Hilda Tagle, who presided over the trial, handed Ruiz-Hernandez an 80-month sentence for human smuggling and a 24-month sentence for his illegally re-entering the county. Not a U.S. citizen, he is expected to face deportation proceedings following his release from prison.
Evidence presented at the trial showed that on April 24, 2015, Ruiz-Hernandez reported to Port of Brownsville authorities that a “friend” told him he saw a female body floating in the Brownsville ship channel. Law enforcement located the body and noticed injuries. Ruiz-Hernandez was initially arrested for illegally re-entering the U.S. after having been previously deported and later charged with alien smuggling as well.
Investigators learned Ruiz-Hernandez had actually been guiding the female illegal alien at midnight in the water across the ship channel when they were struck by a Coast Guard boat. Evidence presented at trial showed he guided her on behalf of Gabriel Sanchez-Aburto, 46, who had taken him to Mexico to pick up the woman. Ruiz-Hernandez and the victim entered the U.S. illegally, walked to the Port of Brownsville ship channel and began crossing the water in darkness. While in the water, a Coast Guard boat struck them. The autopsy revealed the boat’s propeller caused the injuries that resulted in her death.
At the hearing today, additional evidence was presented including that Ruiz-Hernandez had tried to convince another individual to testify falsely that the Coast Guard boat intentionally struck female alien he was transporting.
As part of the investigation, agents with Immigrations and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigation (HSI) arrested Sanchez-Aburto on a warrant for the alien smuggling death incident on Oct. 27, 2015. He and others were in the process of smuggling other aliens at the time. Authorities found and detained seven undocumented aliens and arrested three brothers - Lazaro Comunidad-Hernandez, 48, Pablo Comunidad-Hernandez, 25, and Luciano Comunidad-Hernandez, 39, all from Puebla, Mexico.
The brothers were sentenced last year to terms from 10-15 months and are expected to face deportation proceedings following their release from prison.
Sanchez-Aburto entered a guilty plea to both alien smuggling charges and was also sentenced today to a total of 87 months imprisonment. Additionally, Judge Tagle ordered restitution of $6,000 for expenses incurred following the death of the alien.
Ruiz-Hernandez and Sanchez-Aburto will remain in custody pending transfer to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near future.