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  1. Homeland Security Investigations (HSI)
  2. News Room
  3. Fourth Defendant Pleads Guilty in Fatal Tractor-Trailer Smuggling Case

Fourth Defendant Pleads Guilty in Fatal Tractor-Trailer Smuggling Case Following HSI San Antonio, Federal, State Partner Investigation

Release Date: February 27, 2024

SAN ANTONIO — The fourth defendant in a deadly tractor-trailer smuggling case pleaded guilty to a charge related to his involvement in the organization responsible for smuggling at least 66 migrants in June 2022 that resulted in the deaths of 47 adults and six children.

Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), with the assistance of various federal and state law enforcement agencies in South Texas, is investigating the case.

Luis Alberto Rivera-Leal aka Cowboy, 38, of Mexico, pleaded guilty Feb. 27 to one count of conspiracy to transport noncitizens placing lives in jeopardy. He faces up to 20 years in prison. A federal district court judge will determine the sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

According to court documents, Rivera-Leal was a member of the human smuggling organization responsible for the failed smuggling attempt on June 27, 2022, that illegally brought adults and children from Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico into the United States. Rivera-Leal picked up migrants who had traveled to San Antonio in tractor-trailers and transported small groups to Houston in his personal vehicle.

Rivera-Leal is the fourth defendant to plead guilty in this case. Other co-defendants whose cases are still pending include Homero Zamorano Jr., 47, who drove the tractor-trailer; Felipe Orduna-Torres aka Cholo aka Chuequito/Chuekito aka Negro, 29; and Armando Gonzales-Ortega aka El Don aka Don Gon, 54.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys for the Western District of Texas Eric Fuchs, Sarah Spears and Amanda Brown are prosecuting the case.

These charges resulted in coordination with Joint Task Force Alpha (JTFA). The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Texas is part of the JTFA, which was established by Attorney General Merrick B. Garland in June 2021 to marshal the investigative and prosecutorial resources of the Department of Justice, in partnership with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), to enhance U.S. enforcement efforts against the most prolific and dangerous human smuggling and trafficking groups operating in Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras. The task force focuses on disrupting and dismantling smuggling and trafficking networks that abuse, exploit or endanger migrants; pose national security threats; and are involved in organized crime. JTFA consists of federal prosecutors and attorneys from U.S. attorneys’ offices along the southwest border — including the District of Arizona, the Southern District of California, the Southern District of Texas, and the Western District of Texas — from the Criminal Division and the Civil Rights Division, along with law enforcement agents and analysts from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the U.S. Border Patrol, the FBI and the Drug Enforcement Administration.

HSI San Antonio continues to address the serious public safety threat posed by human smuggling organizations and their reckless disregard for the health and safety of the people they exploit. To report suspicious smuggling activity, call 866-347-2423.

Last Updated: 04/22/2024
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