Driver in deadly smuggling attempt pleads guilty
CORPUS CHRISTI, TX -- A 34-year-old undocumented immigrant residing in Austin has entered a guilty plea to conspiring to transport other non-citizens, announced Acting U.S. Attorney Jennifer B. Lowery.
Lucio Magana Aguilar admitted he picked up a group of nine people Feb. 15 - the day the unusual harsh winter freeze struck Texas - with plans to transport them north.
The group had been traveling through the brush in an attempt to avoid the Javier Vega Jr. checkpoint near Sarita. During their journey, they had separated from their guide and faced extreme weather conditions. They made it back to the roadway where Aguilar arrived in his truck to transport them farther north.
However, by that time, one of the individuals was in extreme distress and another had already succumbed to the conditions. Five of the aliens, including the deceased one, were loaded into the backseat, while the other four were loaded into the rear cargo area of the truck.
Authorities later conducted a traffic stop on the vehicle, at which time they discovered the deceased alien dead at the scene.
Aguilar expected to be paid $1,000 in return for smuggling the group.
U.S. District Judge Drew B. Tipton will impose sentencing July 29. At that time, Aguilar faces up to 10 years in prison and a possible $250,000 maximum fine. He has been and will remain in custody pending that hearing.
Homeland Security Investigations conducted the investigation with the assistance of Border Patrol. Assistant U.S. Attorney Barbara J. De Pena prosecuted the case.