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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Southern District of Texas

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Jury Convicts Alien Smuggler

BROWNSVILLE, Texas – A federal jury sitting in Brownsville has convicted a 37-year-old undocumented alien from Oaxaca, Mexico, who had been living in Brownsville on immigration charges that led to death, announced U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson. The jury returned its verdicts against Galdino Jose Ruiz-Hernandez after a two-day trial.


Evidence presented at the trial showed that on April 24, 2015, Ruiz-Hernandez reported to Port of Brownsville authorities that a “friend” told him saw a female body floating in the Brownsville ship channel. Law enforcement located the body and noticed injuries. Ruiz-Hernandez was initially arrested for illegally re-entering the U.S. after having been previously deported and later charged with alien smuggling as well.


Investigators learned Ruiz-Hernandez had actually been guiding the female illegal alien at midnight in the water across the ship channel when they were struck by a Coast Guard boat. Evidence presented at trial showed he guided her on behalf of Gabriel Sanchez-Aburto, 46, who had taken him to Mexico to pick up the woman. Ruiz-Hernandez and the victim entered the U.S. illegally, walked to the Port of Brownsville ship channel and began crossing the water in darkness. While in the water, a Coast Guard boat struck them. The autopsy revealed the boat’s propeller caused the injuries that resulted in her death.


As part of the investigation, agents with Immigrations and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigation (HSI) arrested Sanchez-Aburto on a warrant for the alien smuggling death incident on Oct. 27, 2015. He and others were in the process of smuggling other aliens at the time. Authorities found and detained seven undocumented aliens and arrested three brothers - Lazaro Comunidad-Hernandez, 48, Pablo Comunidad-Hernandez, 25, and Luciano Comunidad-Hernandez, 39, all from Puebla, Mexico.


The brothers were later sentenced to terms from 10-15 months and are expected to face deportation proceedings following their release from prison.


Sanchez-Aburto entered a guilty plea to both alien smuggling charges and his sentencing is scheduled for Feb. 6, 2017.


U.S. District Judge Hilda Tagle presided over the trial and set sentencing for Ruiz-Hernandez for April 10, 2017. At that time, he faces up to life imprisonment. He will remain in custody pending that hearing.


HSI conducted the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Oscar Ponce and Jason Corley are prosecuting the case.

Updated January 13, 2017