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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Southern District of Texas

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Deaths Of Smuggled Aliens Lands Mexican National In Federal Prison For 10 Years

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – Idelfonso Garcia-Benitez, 20, of Michoacan, Mexico, has been ordered to prison for smuggling of a group of 14 Illegal aliens that left seven dead, announced United States Attorney Kenneth Magidson today along with Brian M. Moskowitz, special agent in charge of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

“The tragic loss of life in this case shows the very real risks that people face when they put their fate in the hands of a human smuggler,” said Moskowitz. “Smugglers place personal profit ahead of public safety and border protection. They are driven by greed with little regard for the health and well-being of their human cargo, and sadly, that can be a deadly combination.”

The indictment charged Garcia-Benitez with one count of conspiring to transport aliens, 14 counts of transporting an alien and one count of illegal re-entry after deportation. On Aug. 22, 2013, he entered a guilty plea to all counts as charged without a written plea agreement.

Today, U.S. District Judge Janis Graham Jack, who accepted the guilty plea, handed Garcia-Benitez a total sentence of 120 months in federal prison and ordered him to pay $2,161,529.16 in restitution. In handing down the sentence, Judge Jack noted the loss of life and monetary costs that resulted from the crime. As an illegal alien, he is expected to face deportation proceedings following his release from prison.

On March 20, 2013, at approximately 11:00 p.m., a Kingsville Police Department officer observed a pick-up truck violate state traffic law by disregarding a stop sign. The officer attempted to conduct a traffic stop on this vehicle, but the vehicle fled, leading to a brief pursuit.

The driver crashed into a vehicle barrier on General Cavazos Avenue in Kleberg County that had been deployed by the Kingsville Naval Air Station. A total of 15 illegal aliens were discovered at the scene. Of those, Garcia-Benitez was identified as the driver. Seven were killed.

Garcia-Benitez was arrested at the scene of the accident. He has been in custody since that time, where he will remain pending transfer to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near future.

The case is being investigated by HSI and prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Jeffrey S. Miller.

Updated April 30, 2015