Smuggler pleads guilty in deadly harboring case

McALLEN — A 20-year-old Mexican national pleaded guilty Thursday in federal court for his role in a smuggling case that resulted in the death of a woman.

>> READ THE COMPLAINT

Juan Jesus Martinez-Rodriguez was the driver and brush guide for a group of 10 migrants just north of Falfurrias when U.S. Border Patrol agents stopped him and the migrants he was transporting just before midnight on Sept. 20, 2018.

Shortly before Martinez-Rodriguez was pulled over, U.S. Border Patrol aerial support authorities notified agents on the ground that a group of undocumented migrants had just boarded a vehicle near Jim Wells County Road 400.

But before Border Patrol agents could approach Martinez-Rodriguez, he and nine undocumented migrants fled the area. This occurred before agents detained Martinez-Rodriguez and the migrants, the complaint against the man stated.

After Martinez-Rodriguez was arrested, he told Border Patrol agents he was the brush guide and driver who transported the nine migrants around the Border Patrol checkpoint in Falfurrias.

Martinez-Rodriguez admitted there had been another migrant, a female that he said had been left behind in the brush around 4 p.m. after she was no longer able to walk due to exhaustion.

“Martinez-Rodriguez recounted the route he walked based on memory and GPS coordinates from his cellular phone,” the complaint stated.

The day after Martinez-Rodriguez’s arrest, Border Patrol located the deceased female south of Falfurrias, near a Brooks County rest area, consistent with the information provided by the man.

The woman was later identified as Alba Cecibel Argueta Jurado, 26, of El Salvador.

Three of the nine migrants, a Mexican national, an El Salvadorian national, and a Honduran national who were arrested and charged for immigration violations each told agents that a 10th member of the group, a female, was left behind on orders from Martinez-Rodriguez after she could no longer walk due to exhaustion, according to court records.

Martinez-Rodriguez, who will not face the death penalty after government prosecutors elected not to seek such punishment, could face up to life in prison at the time of this sentencing, scheduled for late July, records show.

In exchange for pleading true to bringing and harboring aliens, the government will dismiss the remaining three counts of the same offense at the time of his sentencing, court notes showed.