Human smuggler sentenced after migrant death

The Guatemalan man was sentenced to 10 years in prison.
(Source: MGN)
(Source: MGN)(MGN)
Published: Nov. 17, 2022 at 3:51 PM CST
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MIDLAND, Texas (KOSA) - A Guatemalan man was sentenced in Midland, Wednesday to 10 years in prison for multiple immigration crimes.

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

His sentencing comes after an investigation into the death of a 21-year-old Guatemalan woman who died while being smuggled by Diego-Esteban. The young woman’s body was found on the side of a highway outside Odessa near Crane. Crane County Sheriff’s Deputies responded to the 911 call.

In August 2021, Homeland Security Investigation (HSI) Special Agents executed a search warrant at two mobile homes in Odessa, where agents discovered at least one of them was being used as a “stash house” for the transportation of undocumented migrants. Agents seized ledgers identifying members of a human smuggling organization and their respective roles. The ledgers also 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 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 around 100 undocumented migrants for the organization, receiving $125 for each person smuggled illegally.

Diego-Esteban also remembered 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 confirmed that the Guatemalan woman who was found dead 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.”