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Press Release

Driver in Large South Texas Human Smuggling Case Sentenced in Del Rio to 35 Years in Federal Prison

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

DEL RIO, Texas – An Ohio man was sentenced in a federal court in Del Rio Thursday to 420 months in prison for illegal alien transportation resulting in death. 

According to court documents, Sebastian Tovar, 27, of Toledo, was driving a Dodge Ram near Del Rio on March 15, 2021, when a Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) trooper attempted to stop the vehicle. Tovar tried to evade law enforcement but crashed into oncoming traffic. Eight undocumented noncitizen passengers in Tovar’s truck died in the crash, while one more was seriously injured. Additionally, two U.S. citizens were seriously injured in the head-on collision when Tovar struck their vehicle.

Following the crash, U.S. Border Patrol (USBP) agents encountered a Ford F-150 stopped in traffic near the crash site. The agents directed the driver of the Ford, to turn around and subsequently all its occupants fled on foot into nearby brush. USBP agents were able to locate 12 undocumented noncitizens who bolted from the Ford. After interviewing two of the undocumented noncitizens, USBP agents determined that the occupants of the Dodge and Ford were part of a human smuggling operation that was illegally transporting 20 undocumented noncitizens in the U.S. 

Codefendant Ruben Junior Rodriguez-Jaimes, 20, of Bastrop was sentenced last week to 180 months in prison.  Rodriguez-Jaimes was arrested on April 7, 2021, in the brush near Eagle Pass, when he was acting as the foot guide for four undocumented noncitizens.  Since December 2020, Rodriguez-Jaimes had successfully smuggled 38 migrants into the U.S.

In addition to their imprisonment, Tovar and Rodriguez-Jaimes were each ordered to pay a portion of restitution totaling the amount of $164,701.80.

“The defendants in this case displayed a complete disregard for human life, not only of the migrants they were smuggling, but also of the innocent civilians on the road the day of this incident,” said U.S. Attorney Jaime Esparza for the Western District of Texas.  “This is but one example of the danger these human smuggling organizations pose to our communities and especially to the migrants they smuggle.  We are grateful for the tremendous effort and cooperation of our law enforcement partners at the federal, state and local levels and for their diligence in working to identify all of those whose conduct led to this tragedy.”

“These sentences underscore Homeland Security Investigations’ relentless efforts to identify transnational criminal organizations, which make a profit from smuggling migrants into the United States with total disregard for people who may end up paying the ultimate price,” said Special Agent in Charge Craig Larrabee for the HSI San Antonio Division.  “HSI is committed to ensuring that those who prey on the innocent face justice.”

Five additional defendants pleaded guilty earlier this year to one count of illegal alien transportation resulting in death: Lauren Michelle Malmquist, aka “Mama” and “Lala,” 34, of Cedar Park; Nicolas Mondragon-Gonzalez, aka “Chayo” and “Flaco,” 35, of Luvianos, Mexico; Veronica Torres-Mendez, 36, of San Antonio; Jennifer Oralia Davis, aka “Paypa,” 41, of San Antonio; and Eduardo Rivera Benitez, aka “Lalo” and “Casper,” 25, of Bastrop. They each face a maximum penalty of life in prison.

The remaining three defendants pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to transport aliens: Marco Antonio Hernandez, aka “Temo,” 21, of Paige; Jose Eli Rodriguez, 22, of Austin; and Rogelio Manuel Luna, 34, of Austin. They each face a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison.

HSI, USBP and DPS investigated the case with valuable assistance from the Travis County Sheriff’s Office.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Joshua Banister prosecuted the case.

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Updated August 11, 2023

Topic
Human Smuggling