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Press Release

Fourth Defendant in Fatal Tractor Trailer Smuggling Case Pleads Guilty

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

SAN ANTONIO – A Mexican national pleaded guilty in a federal court in San Antonio to one count related to his involvement in the organization responsible for the smuggling of at least 66 migrants in June 2022, which resulted in the deaths of 47 adults and six children.

According to court documents, Luis Alberto Rivera-Leal aka Cowboy, 38, was a member of the human smuggling organization responsible for the failed smuggling attempt on June 27, 2022 that illegally brought adults and children from Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico into the U.S. Rivera-Leal would meet tractor trailers that had transported migrants to San Antonio and further transport small groups of migrants to Houston in his personal vehicle.

Rivera-Leal pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to transport aliens placing lives in jeopardy. He faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

Rivera-Leal is the fourth defendant to plead guilty in this case. Other co-defendants whose cases are still pending include Homero Zamorano Jr., 47, who served as the driver of the tractor trailer; Felipe Orduna-Torres aka Cholo aka Chuequito/Chuekito aka Negro, 29; and Armando Gonzales-Ortega aka El Don aka Don Gon, 54.

U.S. Attorney Jaime Esparza of the Western District of Texas and Special Agent in Charge Craig Larrabee for the HSI San Antonio Division made the announcement.

HSI is investigating the case with the assistance of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and has received tremendous support from Customs and Border Protection; Border Patrol; Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Enforcement and Removal Operations; the San Antonio Police Department; the Bexar County Sheriff’s Office; the San Antonio Fire Department; the Marshall Police Department; and the Palestine Police Department.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Eric Fuchs, Sarah Spears and Amanda Brown are prosecuting the case.

These charges resulted in coordination with Joint Task Force Alpha (JTFA). The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Texas is part of the JTFA, which was established by Attorney General Merrick B. Garland in June 2021 to marshal the investigative and prosecutorial resources of the Department of Justice, in partnership with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), to enhance U.S. enforcement efforts against the most prolific and dangerous human smuggling and trafficking groups operating in Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras. The Task Force focuses on disrupting and dismantling smuggling and trafficking networks that abuse, exploit, or endanger migrants, pose national security threats, and are involved in organized crime. JTFA consists of federal prosecutors and attorneys from U.S. Attorneys’ Offices along the Southwest Border (District of Arizona, Southern District of California, Southern District of Texas, and Western District of Texas), from the Criminal Division and the Civil Rights Division, along with law enforcement agents and analysts from DHS’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and Customs and Border Protection’s U.S. Border Patrol, the FBI and the Drug Enforcement Administration.


Updated February 28, 2024

Human Smuggling