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  1. Homeland Security Investigations (HSI)
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  3. Texas Man Sentenced to 16 Years for Human Smuggling Attempt That Resulted in Deaths

Texas Man Sentenced to 16 Years for Human Smuggling Attempt That Resulted in Deaths Following HSI San Antonio, Local Partner Investigation

Release Date: April 9, 2024

SAN ANTONIO — A central Texas man was sentenced to one count of conspiracy to transport noncitizens resulting in death and one count of being a felon in possession of a firearm following an investigation conducted by Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) with assistance from the Medina County Sheriff’s Office.

Joseph Alex Hernandez, 27, of Austin, was sentenced on April 4 to 192 months for transporting noncitizens resulting in death and 120 months for being a felon in possession of a firearm. The two sentences will run concurrently. Hernandez pleaded guilty Oct. 23, 2023.

“This sentencing highlights HSI’s commitment to use every tool in our arsenal to investigate and dismantle transnational criminal organizations involved with human smuggling,” said HSI San Antonio Special Agent in Charge Craig Larrabee. “This case shows the lack of regard these organizations have for the people they have been paid to smuggle. There will be no safe haven in our communities for criminals who seek to evade our nation's laws and whose greed results in tragedy.”

According to court documents, on April 24, 2022, Hernandez sped away from and attempted to evade Medina County Sheriff’s deputies for approximately seven minutes after they attempted a traffic stop. Hernandez reached speeds between 90 and 100 miles per hour along the highway and access road, crossing the steep, grassy median several times and running a red traffic light. A rear tire on his vehicle eventually gave out and Hernandez lost control, resulting in the vehicle crashing after flipping multiple times in the median. Hernandez was transporting 13 undocumented noncitizens during the chase, including eight who were lying down in the covered truck bed. Three of the passengers were airlifted from the scene and the rest were transported via ambulance to local hospitals. While providing medical treatment, emergency medical services personnel discovered that Hernandez was carrying a loaded pistol. Several days later, two of the smuggled migrants died in the hospital from their injuries.

Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Texas Amanda Brown prosecuted the case.

“This case is another unfortunate and tragic example of how dangerous smuggling humans across the border has become,” said U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Texas Jaime Esparza. “The defendant in this case put 13 lives at risk in an attempt to evade law enforcement. Sadly, his actions led to two of those individuals paying the ultimate price.”

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 866-348-2423.

Last Updated: 04/22/2024
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