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Press Release

Former fugitive sentenced for transporting over 65 into United States

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

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – A 30-year-old Mission resident has been sentenced for his role in a conspiracy to transport non U.S. citizens via commercial tractor-trailers, announced U.S. Attorney Alamdar S. Hamdani.

Daniel Cantu Jr. pleaded guilty Aug. 23, 2022. He was originally set to be sentenced in late 2023, but failed to appear. He remained a fugitive until February.

U.S. District Judge Drew B. Tipton has now ordered Cantu to serve a total of 110 months in federal prison to be immediately followed by three years of supervised release. At the hearing, the court heard evidence about how Cantu was directly involved in the transportation of more than 65 people via commercial tractor-trailers in 2021. Additionally, the court heard that Cantu has continued his involvement in criminal activity in the Rio Grande Valley, including additional alien transporting attempts while on bond in this case. In handing down the sentence the court noted the seriousness of the offense due to the large number of undocumented individuals the organization attempted to smuggle into the United States as well as the dangerous way in which they were doing so.

“The transportation of undocumented migrants across the U.S. southern border is a rapidly growing threat,” said Hamdani. “It is made worse by traffickers such as Daniel Cantu Jr., whose organization uses the cover of legitimate traffic to mask this criminal conduct and attempts to profit by transporting migrants.”

The organization as a whole is responsible for transporting over 200 aliens from South Texas and further into the United States as part of the conspiracy.

From August 2021 through December 2021, law enforcement intercepted five related smuggling attempts at the Falfurrias Border Patrol checkpoint and identified four men responsible for coordinating these smuggling events. Those men – Cantu, Jose Guadalupe Garcia Jr., Jesus Francisco Mares and Jose Antonio Cardona - were responsible for finding trucks, trailers and drivers as well as loading the vehicles with undocumented aliens.

Over the course of the conspiracy from July 2021 through April 2022, authorities estimate this trafficking organization transported or attempted to transport over 200 people further into the United States, most concealed in commercial trailers.

Garcia, 23, Alton, and Mares, 23, Mission, previously received 36 and 15 months, respectively, while Cardona, 30, Mission, is currently a fugitive. A warrant remains outstanding for his arrest. 

Cantu will remain in custody pending transfer to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near future.

Homeland Security Investigations and U.S. Marshals Service conducted the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Ashley Martin prosecuted the case.

Updated March 28, 2024

Human Smuggling