Twenty-two-year-old Jose Tercero-Gonzalez and 26-year-old Armando Gael-Galicia each face sentences of up to life imprisonment after pleading guilty on Thursday, per a DOJ news release published last week.
“In early May 2021, the body of a young indigenous Guatemalan woman was discovered in a remote area just outside of Odessa, Texas. On Aug. 23, 2021, Gael-Galicia and Tercero-Gonzalez were arrested in or near 910 Coyochic Avenue in Odessa, which was the location of the trailer where the victim was taken and died,” the news release stated, adding that authorities found other illegal immigrants at the trailer.
Tercero-Gonzalez and Gael-Galicia both admitted to being human smugglers. The DOJ explained that the trailer contained other evidence of a human smuggling operation, such as ledgers and over 100 cell phones.
Prosecutors say the men worked with other suspected smugglers who are currently in custody in Guatemala awaiting extradition to the United States after being indicted last month. They are accused of charging individuals between $10,000 and $12,000 to be transported from Guatemala to the United States via Mexico, the DOJ stated, describing it as a “prolific alien smuggling organization.”
Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Acting Executive Associate Director Steve Francis described the guilty pleas as a “significant win for law enforcement agencies and task force partners” and pointed to the impact the crimes have on the victims’ families.
“Human smugglers who conspire to undermine federal laws for profit have no regard for human life and combating this horrific crime of exploitation is one of our agency’s top priorities,” Francist said. “Rest assured, HSI special agents will continue to utilize their broad range of authority and international footprint to identify, investigate, and disrupt domestic and transnational criminal organizations engaged in human smuggling operations around the world.”
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Hayden Sparks is a senior reporter for The Texan and a lifelong resident of the Lone Star State. He has coached competitive speech and debate and has been involved in politics since a young age. One of Hayden's favorite quotes is by Sam Houston: "Texas has yet to learn submission to any oppression, come from what source it may."