Mexican man sentenced in southeast Texas to 45 years in prison for deaths of 7 smuggled aliens

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CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — A Mexican national was sentenced to 45 years in prison Monday for seven deaths which resulted when he crashed his vehicle carrying 14 smuggled aliens in south Texas while fleeing from police.

This sentence was announced by Kleberg County (Texas) District Attorney John Hubert. This investigation was conducted by U.S. Immigration and Custom Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), with assistance provided by U.S. Customs and Border Protection's Border Patrol; U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of Texas Corpus Christi Division; U.S. Navy; Texas Department of Public Safety; and the Kingsville (Texas) Police Department.

Idelfonso Garcia-Benitez, 21, crashed his vehicle carrying 14 smuggled aliens when he attempted to avoid a traffic stop by Kingsville Police. While fleeing police, he ran into a security barrier at the front gate of Naval Air Station Kingsville March 20, 2013. Seven people were killed and seven injured when he crashed the extended cab truck he was driving.

"The tragic loss of life in this case shows the very real risks that people face when they put their fate in the hands of a human smuggler," said Moskowitz. "Smugglers place personal profit ahead of public safety and border protection. They are driven by greed with little regard for the health and well-being of their human cargo. Sadly, that can be a deadly combination."

"These cases are tragic," stated Hubert. "The loss of life due to smuggling is becoming more and more commonplace. Although this was a federal case, the state had to do something about this crime. Until the borders are secure, I foresee an increase in deaths, serious injuries and property damage due to coyote activity."

Garcia-Benitez's plea agreement stipulated that he would serve 35 years on each of the seven deaths and the maximum sentence of 20 years for each of the seven aggravated assaults. The sentences are to run consecutive to the federal Sentence of 10 years already imposed for human smuggling. Sentences from the State of Texas case are required to run concurrent with each other. Therefore, the maximum sentence of 35 years will be served after the 10 years in the federal prison for a total of 45 years. As an illegal alien, Garcia-Benitez is expected to face deportation proceedings following his release from prison.

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