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Press Release

Donna Man Sentenced for Alien Smuggling

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of Texas

McALLEN, Texas – A 19-year-old resident of Donna has been ordered to federal prison for five years as a result of his conviction for conspiracy to transport undocumented aliens, announced U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Patrick. Jesse Zuniga pleaded guilty on Dec. 19, 2017.

Today, U.S. District Judge Randy Crane sentenced Zuniga to 60 months imprisonment to be immediately followed by three years of supervised release. The sentence was enhanced as the court took into consideration Zuniga’s role in the conspiracy, his use of minors to transport undocumented aliens and that fact Zuniga was heavily involved in overseeing the transportation cell of the alien smuggling organization. The court also considered the total number of aliens transported during the conspiracy, that a vehicular accident occurred during one of the transports which resulted in multiple aliens being sent to the hospital for minor injuries and that Zuniga had been arrested several times for transporting aliens when he too was a minor, among other factors.

Zuniga was involved in coordinating at least two separate alien transporting events from April 23, 2017, to Oct. 21, 2017.

On or about April 23, 2017, Border Patrol agents were conducting surveillance in the Donna area when they observed individuals emerge from the Rio Grande riverbank and load into a vehicle. After the vehicle departed from the area, agents attempted to conduct a traffic stop. The vehicle failed to stop and led agents on a pursuit that lasted approximately five miles and reached speeds of 100mph, which ended when the vehicle rolled over into an open field. Agents apprehended 16 undocumented aliens who were passengers in the vehicle, which included a three-year-old child. Five of the aliens were transported to a local hospital where they were treated for minor injuries.

On the second occasion, agents observed two vehicles driving in tandem near the riverbank of the Rio Grande near Donna. At the location, multiple subjects emerged from the nearby area and loaded into both vehicles, which then drove in a northbound direction away from the river. Shortly thereafter, agents stopped both vehicles.  Between both vehicles, agents apprehended a total of 10 undocumented aliens who were passengers in the vehicles.

Zuniga has been and will remain in federal custody pending transfer to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near future.

Jacqueline Christine Medrano, 28, of McAllen, pleaded guilty for her role in the April event and is set for sentencing June 18, 2018. Darryin Nicole Uribe, 19, of San Juan, and Rey Angel Silguero, 19, of Alamo, were charged for their roles in the October smuggling event Both have pleaded guilty and are set for sentencing April 17, 2018.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations and Border Patrol conducted the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Linda Requénez prosecuted the case.

Updated April 9, 2018

Human Smuggling