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Press Release

Human Smuggler Sentenced Following Migrant Death

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

MIDLAND, Texas – A Guatemalan national man was sentenced Wednesday to 10 years in prison for immigration crimes.

According to court documents, Mario Rigoberto Diego-Esteban, aka “Lentes,” 26, was sentenced following his guilty plea to one count of illegal re-entry after deportation and one count of transporting undocumented migrants for commercial advantage and private financial gain.

The prosecution stemmed from an investigation into the death of a 21-year-old female Guatemalan national who died while being smuggled by Diego-Esteban and others. The young woman’s body was found on the side of a rural highway outside Odessa, Texas, when Crane County Sheriff’s Deputies responded to a 911 call from a concerned citizen who discovered her remains.

In August 2021, Homeland Security Investigation (HSI) Special Agents executed a search warrant at two mobile homes in Odessa, at least one of which was being used as a “stash house” to harbor and stage the transportation of undocumented migrants. Agents seized ledgers identifying members of a human smuggling organization and their respective roles. The ledgers identified Diego-Esteban as a person who transported undocumented migrants for the organization.

On December 8, 2021, Diego-Esteban was detained by Texas Department of Public Safety troopers near Odessa and was subsequently interviewed by HSI. Diego-Esteban admitted that he was a member of the human smuggling organization associated with the Odessa stash houses and that he had transported 100 undocumented migrants for the organization, receiving $125 for each illegal alien. Diego-Esteban also recounted transporting a female Guatemalan to the stash house. Diego-Esteban said he was told the female was ill, possibly dehydrated, and described her as having difficulty walking and not being able to remain conscious during transport. The investigation revealed that the Guatemalan female, confirmed to be the young woman whose remains were found near the rural highway outside of Odessa, died upon arriving at the stash house.

“The complete lack of concern for a young woman’s life in this case is appalling and yet smuggling networks like these continue to flourish because it is not about preserving life, but about cold, hard cash,” said U.S. Attorney Ashley C. Hoff. “Along with our partners, both in the United States, and worldwide, we will continue to do all in our power to stop these networks and hold the smugglers accountable.”

“The tragic loss of life in this case is an example of the very real risks people face when they put their lives in the hands of smugglers," said Special Agent in Charge, Francisco B. Burrola, HSI El Paso. "Those responsible for illegally moving people into and through our country place personal profit ahead of public safety. Driven by greed, they have little regard for the health and well-being of their human cargo, which can be a deadly combination.”

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security Investigations investigated the case with assistance from the Texas Department of Public Safety and U.S. Border Patrol.

Assistant U.S. Attorney John Fedock and former Assistant U.S. Attorney Glenn Harwood prosecuted the case and were assisted by Joint Task Force Alpha Co-Director James Hepburn and Assistant U.S. Attorney Jose Luis Acosta. 

These charges resulted from the coordinated efforts of 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 November 17, 2022

Human Trafficking
Human Smuggling