A Weslaco man has been ordered to federal prison following his conviction of human smuggling which resulted in the death of an undocumented alien trapped inside a toolbox,
According to U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Patrick, 45-year-old Juan Enrique Escobedo-Moreno pleaded guilty Jan. 5, admitting he smuggled the victim in his tractor trailer.
The victim died after being trapped in a toolbox measuring only 30 inches long, 26 inches wide and 16 inches deep.
Today, U.S. District Judge Janis Graham Jack handed Escobedo-Moreno a 210-month sentence to be immediately followed by three years of supervised release. At the hearing, additional evidence was presented detailing the defendant’s previous alien smuggling apprehensions and describing the egregious conditions under which Escobedo-Moreno transported the aliens in this case leading to the death of one of the aliens. In handing down the sentence of more than 17 years, the court noted Escobedo-Moreno exhibited "a complete disregard for human life."
According to the facts presented to the court at the time of the plea, Escobedo-Moreno drove his 2002 Kenworth tractor-trailer into the primary inspection area of the Falfurrias Border Patrol checkpoint shortly after midnight on Oct. 3, 2017. He claimed to be a hauling a load of watermelons from Edinburg to Houston and that no one else was with him. Upon inspection, authorities discovered one Mexican national hidden inside a small closet directly behind the driver’s seat. Escobedo-Moreno and that undocumented alien made no mention of anyone else in the vehicle.
Authorities later discovered the remains of an individual concealed in a tool compartment under the sleeper berth. When in the down position, the bed was secured with an exterior latch that would be inaccessible from inside the tool storage compartment under the bed and prevent anyone from freeing themselves. According to information presented in court, Escobedo-Moreno specifically instructed the victim to pull the bed down hard to make sure it would latch and stay closed.
Escobedo-Moreno remains in custody pending transfer to a Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near future.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations and Border Patrol conducted the investigation with the assistance of the Brooks County Sheriff’s Office. Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert D. Thorpe Jr. is prosecuting the case.