A U.S. citizen was charged in connection with the smuggling operation that resulted in 13 deaths after a semi-trailer rammed into an SUV carrying 25 people, including many Mexican and Guatemalan nationals, earlier this month.
Jose Cruz Noguez, of Mexicali, Mexico, was arrested Monday night when he was entering the United States from Mexico, according to an FBI announcement. Cruz, 47, is a legal United States permanent resident who has spent time in San Jose, California, officials said.
The SUV, driven by a 28-year-old Mexican resident, pulled in right at the intersection before a large rig hit the side of the SUV. The driver and 12 other passengers in the SUV died.
Cruz was accused of conspiracy to bring migrants to the US who caused serious physical harm and brought them in without submission for financial gain, according to officials.
“Cramming dozens of people into eight-passenger vehicles and driving recklessly to avoid detection shows total disregard for human life,” acting US attorney Randy Grossman said in a statement. “We will find and prosecute smugglers who use these methods and cause such tragedy.” and preventable deaths. ”
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The crash highlighted immigration and border concerns. The fatal collision occurred at Mach 2 in southern California, just 10 miles north of the border, where two vehicles entered the United States through a 10-foot hole in the fence.
Another smuggler who claimed to be a Cruz employee said he was hired as a driver even though he refused. The smuggler then spoke to Cruz on a “secretly taped” phone call, where he confirmed his involvement, the complaint said.
Cruz also said in the call that “his other employees cut through the border fence, that the vehicles were fully loaded and that he had raised money for the event,” the complaint said.
“Thirteen people were killed by unscrupulous people smugglers on March 2nd,” said Gregory K. Bovino, chief patrol agent of the El Centro Sector Border Guard. “The US Attorney General, Homeland Security Investigations and the US Border Patrol will stop at nothing to find, arrest and prosecute smugglers, and this case is evidence of that.”
Contributors: Grace Hauck, Colin Atagi, and Christal Hayes