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Press Release

Four Guilty In Smuggling Conspiracy Resulting In Death

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

McALLEN, Texas – With the guilty plea of Julia Resendez, 33, four people have now been convicted for their respective roles in an alien smuggling conspiracy that resulted in the death of two Guatemalan nationals, announced U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson.

Resendez, of Sullivan City, entered a guilty plea today, while Juan Manuel Garcia, 18, Eloy Mendoza Jr., 26, and Jose Manuel Lovato-Balleza, 23, pleaded guilty March 11, 2015. Garcia and Mendoza are also residents of Sullivan City, while Lovato is Mexican national. Garcia pleaded guilty to conspiracy to transport aliens and to transporting aliens, resulting in death. Mendoza, Lovato and Resendez were convicted of conspiracy to harbor aliens. 

On Oct. 2, 2014, U.S. Border Patrol (BP) agents observed a truck appear to be transporting illegal aliens near Sullivan City. Garcia was driving and attempted to evade agents. He soon lost control of the vehicle on a caliche road, hitting an embankment and ejecting the majority of his passengers. BP agents responded immediately and observed Garcia and 11 illegal aliens at the scene of the rollover where one female Guatemalan national was found deceased. The majority of the other aliens had severe injuries and had to be hospitalized. Within a few days, a male Guatemalan national passed away as a result of his injuries sustained in the rollover.

Based on their investigation, law enforcement was able to determine that the aliens involved in the rollover had been harbored in two alien stash houses located in Sullivan City. Agents discovered 15 aliens at a house on Huisache St. and another 16 were being harbored at a house on Ebony St. Mendoza and Lovato were determined to be the caretakers of the aliens found in the Huisache house, while Resendez was the caretaker in the Ebony house. Two of the aliens that Resendez was harboring were visibly injured and admitted to being in the rollover and fleeing afterwards. Both of these aliens indicated that they had been harbored by Mendoza and Lovato at the Huisache residence prior to the rollover.

The defendants will remain in custody pending sentencing, which is set for May 26, 2015, before U.S. District Judge Randy Crane. At that time, Garcia faces of up to life in federal prison, while Mendoza, Lovato and Resendez face up to 10 ten years imprisonment. All also face a potential $250,000 maximum fine.

The charges are the result of an investigation by Homeland Security Investigations, BP and the Texas Department of Public Safety. Assistant U.S. Attorney David A. Lindenmuth is prosecuting the case.

Updated April 30, 2015