A federal court in Laredo, Texas, sentenced a local man to more than nine years in prison for packing 35 migrants into a hot tractor-trailer in June 2019. Many of the migrants lost consciousness from the heat and lack of oxygen in the sealed trailer.
U.S. District Court Judge Marina Garcia Marmolejo sentenced 52-year-old Juan Contreras this week to a federal prison sentence of 110 months, according to information obtained from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Texas. Contreras pleaded guilty to the human smuggling attempt in February 2020.
Judge Marmolejo noted this was Contreras’ third alien smuggling conviction and that he had multiple opportunities to stop the criminal activity and the suffering of the migrants locked inside the trailer.
On June 19, 2019, law enforcement officials found Contreras in a tractor-trailer on the side of Interstate 35 near Laredo. While the trailer was reported to be sealed, law enforcement officials noticed a person attempting to force their way through the trailer doors.
Inside the trailer, officials found 35 migrants locked inside, prosecutors stated.
“The investigation revealed the aliens had been banging on the walls while the vehicle was on the side of the highway,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office said in a written statement. “They also tried to reach through holes they made with a crowbar. Multiple individuals even lost consciousness due to lack of oxygen and high temperatures.”
“The sentencing of Contreras sends a clear message that individuals who engage in criminal activity with disregard for human life will be located, arrested, convicted, and sentenced for their actions said Deputy Special Agent in Charge Timothy Tubbs from Homeland Security Investigations (HSI). “Criminals who illegally smuggle people into and throughout the United States place personal profit ahead of public safety. HSI will continue to utilize its broad authorities to dismantle human smuggling organizations.”
Prosecutors noted that Contreras was on supervised release from his previous human smuggling conviction when he committed this crime. The court revoked the remainder of his supervised released and tacked on an additional nine months to his 110-month sentence. Once this is completed, Contreras will face an additional three years of supervised release.