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Press Release

Four Sentenced in Smuggling Conspiracy Resulting in Death

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

McALLEN, Texas – A total of four people have been ordered to federal prison following their convictions related to an alien smuggling conspiracy that resulted in the death of two Guatemalan nationals, announced U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson.

Juan Manuel Garcia, 19, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to transport aliens and to transporting aliens resulting in death, while Julia Resendez, 33, Jose Manuel Lovato-Balleza, 24, and Eloy Mendoza Jr., 27, entered their pleas to conspiracy to harbor aliens. Resendez, Garcia and Mendoza are all residents of Sullivan City, while Lovato is a Mexican national.

Today, U.S. District Judge Randy Crane handed Garcia a total sentence of 144 months in federal prison which will be immediately followed by three years of supervised release. Resendez and Lovato-Balleza received respective sentences of 24 and 78 months, while Mendoza will serve a 108-month-term. At the hearing, the court ordered Mendoza and Garcia to pay restitution to the Guatemalan government in the amount of approximately $6,800. During the sentencing of Garcia, the court noted the frequent occurrences of rollovers in the area, the media reporting on them and that Garcia should have known the rollover was possible.

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 Street and another 16 were being harbored at a house on Ebony Street. 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 transfer to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near future

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 February 4, 2016