Judge Sentences Woman In Smuggling Scheme That Left A Man Dead
HOUSTON – Demi Mishel Muniz has been ordered to prison for more than seven years following her conviction of conspiracy to transport and harbor aliens resulting in the death of a 38-year-old illegal alien from Mexico, United States Attorney Kenneth Magidson announced today. A Houston federal jury returned a guilty verdict against Muniz following a three-day trial on Thursday, Jan. 31, 2013.
Today, U.S. District Judge Lee H. Rosenthal, who presided over the trial, handed the Los Angeles, Calif., resident a term of 85 months in federal prison. At the hearing, further evidence was provided including that had the victim received proper and timely medical care, he likely would have survived. The judge also found that the Muniz obstructed justice by lying about her role in the offense to federal agents and also to the jury during her trial testimony. Muniz will also serve a three-year-term of supervised release following completion of her prison term.
During trial, testimony revealed that on Aug. 18, 2010, the Oldham County Sheriff’s Office was notified there was a body on the side of Interstate 40 outside of Vega, approximately 20 miles west of Amarillo. The identity of the deceased was discovered following receipt of an inquiry from the alien’s son.
The deceased was in the process of being smuggled from Mexico into the United States, being transported from Houston to Los Angeles. During the course of the journey, Muniz contacted the wife of the deceased and provided a bank account number for the deposit of $650 in smuggling fees. Subsequently, Muniz contacted the wife again and informed her he was ill. The wife told Muniz her husband was a diabetic and required insulin and requested he be taken to a hospital. Muniz refused and stated she had other people in the van and had to keep moving. A few hours later, the wife was called and told not to deposit the money into the bank account because her husband had been “left behind.”
An autopsy on the body of the deceased determined he had died of a combination of pneumonia and diabetes. A co-defendant testified Muniz and others were heavily involved in alien smuggling and that during the course of the trip Muniz refused to provide help to the deceased.
The bank accounts of Muniz were extensively reviewed and it was determined that approximately $84,000 in the account was derived from unknown sources. Agents determined many of the deposits were from various other states and that this was a characteristic consistent with alien smuggling operations.
Although Muniz previously said she was not involved in the smuggling venture and was not in the van with the deceased, Muniz elected to testify in the trial and admitted to being in the van, but said she did not know the aliens were illegal. She further denied having talked to the widow and also denied being told the deceased was diabetic and required insulin. The jury disagreed and found her guilty.
The case was investigated by the Oldham County Sheriff’s Office, Texas Rangers, Texas Department of Public Safety and Homeland Security Investigations. Assistant United States Attorneys Julie Searle and Douglas Davis prosecuted the case.