McALLEN — The fourth and final defendant in a human smuggling case, which resulted in the deaths of two undocumented migrants, was sentenced Tuesday, court records show.
U.S. District Judge Randy Crane sentenced Osvaldo “Chavelo” Gonzalez to a 262-month prison term related to a November 2015 human smuggling case, court records show.
Gonzalez was identified as the leader of a group of smugglers connected to a Nov. 23, 2015 crash in Palmview that left two Central American migrants dead.
The driver, Adrian Humberto Ramos-Rivera, a native of Nuevo Leon, crashed and two of the immigrants he was transporting — one from El Salvador and another from Honduras — were killed with multiple others injured.
Ramos-Rivera was sentenced in April to a 96-month prison term.
The truck, which was occupied by 11 males and two females, was traveling north at approximately 2:45 p.m. Nov. 23, 2015, on Bentsen Palm Drive — south of Business Highway 83 near Palmview — when it skidded off the road, according to a news release from the Texas Department of Public Safety the day of the crash.
Driven by Ramos-Rivera, the truck swerved into the adjacent lane and crashed into a 1992 GMC pickup truck, occupied by one male driver, traveling southbound.
The Dodge veered to the west side of the roadway then rolled over, causing one woman, Carmelina Portillo, of El Salvador, to be ejected. She died at the scene, the release from DPS stated at the time.
Another man, Jose Francisco Veliz-Castro, of Honduras died a few weeks later of injuries suffered in the crash.
The investigation into the crash revealed Ramos-Rivera had gotten spooked when he saw what he believed to be an unmarked law enforcement vehicle. He attempted to evade it and ultimately veered into oncoming traffic, which caused the wreck.
The driver of the GMC suffered minor injuries. He was taken to the Mission Regional Medical Center and was subsequently released.
Gonzalez, 26, of Mission, is the final of four defendants to be sentenced in connection with the case.
Benito Zuñiga, was the first defendant sentenced; he was handed a 30-month prison term on one count of bringing in and harboring on Oct. 12, 2017.
Juan Mauricio Hernandez-Martinez was also sentenced, receiving 60 months in prison on one count of bringing in and harboring in January.
Shane Folden, special agent in charge for Homeland Security Investigations in San Antonio, said the sentencing was appropriate given the loss of life that resulted from the crash.
“This case is a glaring reminder that alien smugglers are driven by greed and have little regard for the health and well-being of their human cargo, which can prove to be a deadly combination,” Folden said. “HSI is committed to aggressively targeting smuggling organizations and human smugglers who continually victimize people for profit.”
In addition to the more than 21-year prison sentence, Gonzalez will be required to serve three years of supervised release upon completion of his prison term, and pay $6,800 in restitution to the family of a victim.