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Press Release

El Salvadorian felon heads to prison for third-time unlawful entry

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

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – A 46-year-old man has been ordered to federal prison following his conviction of illegal re-entry into the United States, announced U.S. Attorney Jennifer B. Lowery.

U.S. District Judge Drew B. Tipton convicted Jose Villatoro-Avila May 10, following a two-day bench trial.

Today, Judge Tipton ordered Villatoro-Avila to serve 27 months in federal prison. Not a U.S. citizen, Villatoro-Avila is expected to face removal proceedings following his imprisonment. In handing down the sentence, the court noted Villatoro-Avila’s repeated attempts to come into the country illegally, despite previously being sentenced to two 24- month sentences.

Villatoro-Avila is a citizen of El Salvador who was found illegally present within the United States.

At trial, evidence and testimony showed that on April 6, 2021, law enforcement apprehended Villatoro-Avila in Kenedy County while he was trying to circumvent the Javier Vega Jr. checkpoint. Authorities quickly pursued and were able to apprehend him while he was still in the brush.

The judge heard that Villatoro-Avila had been convicted - twice - of illegal re-entry into the United States. At a previous sentencing, he told the court “I promise I will never come back here if you give me leniency.”

However, evidence and testimony revealed he unlawfully returned to the country two more times after making that promise to the judge. The investigation further revealed he had been removed from the country multiple times beginning in 1999 and as recently as 2016.

The court also heard how authorities had used his fingerprints to make the identification, thus revealing the previous deportations.

The defense attempted to convince the court there was a possibility of evidence that showed Villatoro-Avila had received permission to re-enter the United States from appropriate authorities. The defense also attacked the credibility of fingerprint testimony and his identification at the time of his previous removals from the country.

Judge Tipton did not believe the claims and found him guilty as charged.

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

Border Patrol conducted the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorneys J. Parker Gochenour and Christopher Marin prosecuted the case.

Updated August 2, 2022