Man pleads guilty in 2022 smuggling case that claimed 53 lives in San Antonio

Border smuggling tragedy aftermath.

Man pleads guilty in 2022 smuggling case that claimed 53 lives in San Antonio

San Antonio, Tex. – A 38-year-old man from Mexico has entered a guilty plea for his involvement in a tragic tractor-trailer smuggling incident that resulted in the deaths of 53 people in 2022.

A 38-year-old man from Mexico, identified as Luis Alberto Rivera-Leal, also known as “Cowboy,” has pleaded guilty for his role in a harrowing smuggling case that led to the loss of 53 lives in San Antonio back in 2022. Rivera-Leal was associated with an organization involved in smuggling adults and children from Guatemala, Honduras, and Mexico into the United States.

Tragic Incident Unfolds

On June 27, 2022, the organization trafficked a group of migrants in a tractor-trailer that passed through the Laredo Border Patrol checkpoint on Interstate 35. As the trailer reached San Antonio, it halted on a road, leaving the migrants trapped inside without proper ventilation, air-conditioning, or water under the scorching heat. This cruel act resulted in the tragic deaths of 47 adults and six children.

Guilty Plea

Rivera-Leal has now joined three others in pleading guilty in connection with this heart-wrenching case. He faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison for his involvement in the smuggling operation that led to the loss of innocent lives.

Press Release Details

According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Western District of Texas, Rivera-Leal pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to transport aliens placing lives in jeopardy. The federal district court judge will determine his sentence post considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors. Rivera-Leal becomes the fourth defendant to plead guilty in this tragic case.

Partners in Investigation

The investigation into this case involved multiple agencies, including Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) along with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Several law enforcement agencies provided vital support during the course of the investigation.

Involvement of Others

Other co-defendants whose cases are still pending in connection with this incident include Homero Zamorano Jr., Felipe Orduna-Torres, and Armando Gonzales-Ortega. The legal proceedings continue as justice is sought for the victims of this devastating smuggling operation.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Texas, in collaboration with various federal entities, is working to dismantle human smuggling and trafficking networks, aiming to protect vulnerable migrants and combat organized crime.

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