Man Sentenced to 15 Years for Role in Death of 13 Migrants in ‘Fatal’ Human Smuggling Operation in California Gone Bad

Via NARA & DVIDS Public Domain Archive – GetArchive
Public Domain

By The Vanguard Staff

SAN DIEGO, CA – A federal judge here sentenced Jose Cruz Noguez—allegedly the “coordinator” of a fatal smuggling event that killed 13 migrants in March 2021 near Calexico—to 15 years in prison. 

The Dept. of Justice said the migrants were killed “when the vehicle in which they were concealed collided with a tractor trailer near Holtville, CA.”

“This horrific tragedy was senseless and horrible beyond belief,” said El Centro Sector Chief Gregory Bovino. 

Bovino added, “The United States Attorney’s Office brought the defendant to justice, and the efforts of the prosecution team, plus those of Homeland Security Investigations, the California Highway Patrol, and others, signify that smugglers and traffickers of humans will face maximum consequences.”

According to pleadings filed, Cruz Noguez was a “coordinator of the event in which two SUVs – a GMC Yukon and a Ford Expedition – were modified by removing the seats in the passenger compartments so that undocumented migrants literally could be stacked on top of one another.

“Based on admissions made by Cruz Noguez to a cooperating source of information whom he tried to recruit to drive one of the load vehicles, he was responsible for organizing the event and collecting payment from the smuggled individuals. 

“Cruz Noguez…drove the smuggling route to scout for law enforcement activity…his co-conspirators in Mexico crammed undocumented migrants into the load vehicles – at least 19 in the GMC Yukon and 24 in the Ford Expedition – and cut the international boundary fence, removing a section large enough for the vehicles to drive through. “

The government said one vehicle, once in the U.S., began to have mechanical problems—the GMC Yukon “began filling with smoke, and the vehicle caught fire. The driver stopped the vehicle and fled on foot, leaving the smuggled individuals to fend for themselves. Nineteen of them were subsequently found hiding nearby, although it is believed that others were able to avoid apprehension.”

The Ford Expedition and its 24 occupants, according to pleadings, “collided with a tractor-trailer in a horrific accident, killing 13 of the undocumented migrants and seriously injuring many of the survivors.”

The DOJ statement added, “Further demonstrating his callousness, the defendant told the source of information in the days following the smuggling event that he was attempting to collect payment from the smuggled aliens who survived the incident and were not apprehended by law enforcement.”

The DOJ said two survivors of the collision “spoke and explained the terrible impact the tragedy has had on their lives.”

U.S. District Judge Cathy Ann Bencivengo said the case was “tragic and heartbreaking” and “among the worst of cases I have seen. People who engage in human trafficking of this nature are monstrous and cruel…These people were treated like human cargo…jammed into two cars to maximize the profit margin that the traffickers could make by putting as many people as possible into vehicles…with no concern about their health and safety.” 

Judge Bencivengo added she hoped the statutory maximum 15-year sentence would “be a message to the trafficking community that, when you engage in this kind of gross behavior, there are serious consequences.”

“Cruz Noguez organized one of the most callous and inhumane smuggling attempts that law enforcement has responded to in this district,” said U.S. Attorney Randy Grossman for the Southern District of California. 

Grossman added, “He and his co-conspirators treated these individuals like a worthless commodity. They were crammed into vehicles like sardines in a can, stacked one on top of another without seats or any form of safety restraints. Our office and our agency partners will not tolerate such heinous conduct and were determined to seek justice for these offenses.” 

Special Agent in Charge Chad Plantz Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) San Diego said, “Human smuggling is dangerous but, as this case demonstrates, it’s also deadly. HSI will not stop investigating and bringing smugglers to court to face justice. There can be no safe haven for smugglers who evade our nations laws, are senselessly greedy and recklessly dangerous resulting in deaths.”

About The Author

Disclaimer: the views expressed by guest writers are strictly those of the author and may not reflect the views of the Vanguard, its editor, or its editorial board.

Related posts

Leave a Reply

X Close

Newsletter Sign-Up

X Close

Monthly Subscriber Sign-Up

Enter the maximum amount you want to pay each month
Sign up for