Brush guides sentenced in human smuggling case

USAO: One victim died due to heat stroke

Two men who abandoned a Central American woman in the brush were sentenced to federal prison terms Monday, according to a news release from the Southern District of Texas U.S. Attorney’s Office.

U.S. District Judge Ricardo H. Hinojosa sentenced Imer Ares-Chagolla, 36, and Ismael Rivera-Lopez, 19, to 87 and 46 months in prison, respectively, during a sentencing hearing Monday, the release stated.

The men, both Mexican nationals, pleaded true in April of this year to their roles in a July 2018 human smuggling attempt that left an El Salvador woman dead, the record stated.

According to federal prosecutors, Ares-Chagolla and Rivera-Lopez served as brush guides for a group of 13 undocumented persons who had illegally crossed the Rio Grande River from Mexico into the United States.

On the afternoon of July 17, 2018, federal authorities located the group and learned that one of its members was missing. After learning the woman was possibly in distress, authorities began emergency search operations in the area.

The missing member, Maria Concepcion Umana-Chavez, was found later that day, unresponsive in the South Texas brush country near Sullivan City.

Authorities provided emergency medical treatment and transported her to a local hospital.

Despite their efforts, the woman ultimately died July 18 from multiple organ failures due to shock related to heat stroke, the release stated.

In exchange for pleading true to one count of bringing in and harboring aliens, both defendants had additional harboring charges dismissed, according to the plea agreement.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations spearheaded the investigation with the assistance of Border Patrol and the Sullivan City Police Department. Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert L. Guerra Jr. prosecuted the case.

The men, who do not have legal authority to remain in the country, will likely be deported upon completion of their respective prison terms.