Two convicted in case of 19 illegal aliens who died in truck

| Monday, December 27, 2004

Two of the people accused of taking part in a smuggling scheme that led to the deaths of 19 illegal aliens in Texas have been convicted of multiple charges in the case, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Houston announced recently.

According to U.S. Attorney Michael Shelby, sentencing is scheduled for March 28, 2005, for the two men, Fredy Giovanni Garcia-Tobar, 25, Harlingen, TX, and Victor Jesus Rodriguez, 38, Brownsville, TX.

A group of more than 70 immigrants from Mexico, Central American and the Dominican Republic were being transported in a tractor-trailer from South Texas to Houston when 19 of them died. Law enforcement officials said that the truck driver, Tyrone Williams, left the trailer in the early morning hours of May 14, 2003.

The victims died from dehydration, hypothermia and suffocation. Among the victims was a 5-year-old boy from Mexico.

Fourteen people were identified as suspects in the case; prosecutors have said most were part of the smuggling ring that brought the 74 aliens into the country. A massive investigation was conducted by the Houston, San Antonio, Harlingen, Brownsville and McAllen, TX, offices of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement; the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Office of the Inspector General; the Texas Department of Public Safety; the Texas Rangers; the Victoria County Sheriff's Department; the McAllen Police Department; the Harlingen Police Department; and the Victoria Police Department.

Garcia-Tobar and Rodriguez were convicted of: conspiracy to transport aliens unlawfully in the United States in a way that resulted in injury or death; helping conceal and transport 19 of the surviving aliens in a way that resulted in injury; and aiding and abetting the unlawful transportation of the 19 aliens who died. Both faced 58 counts, and could be imprisoned for life.

The driver of the truck – Williams, 31, a resident of Schenectady, NY – could face the death penalty if he is convicted of the charges he faces in the case. His trial is scheduled for Jan. 5, 2005.

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