Laredo, Texas – In an unequivocal demonstration of justice, on June 29, the gavel of law pronounced judgment on Arling Antonio Gutierrez-Garcia, a 49-year-old Nicaraguan national, for his active participation in a deadly human trafficking conspiracy.
A collective of agencies including Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Laredo, U.S. Border Patrol, law enforcement authorities from Webb and Dimmit counties, the Webb County District Attorney’s Office, the Texas Department of Public Safety, and the Texas Highway Patrol, collaborated extensively in the investigative procedures leading to this conviction.
Gutierrez-Garcia pleaded guilty earlier this year
The judgement of 72 months in federal prison was rendered on Gutierrez-Garcia following his guilty plea on March 10.
“As this sentence makes clear, those who exploit people for profit will themselves face consequences,” said HSI San Antonio acting Special Agent in Charge Alejandro Amaro. “Those responsible for illegally moving people into and through our country place personal profit ahead of public safety and border protection. They are driven by greed with little regard for the health and well-being of their human cargo, which can be a deadly combination.”
Gutierrez-Garcia will have to leave U.S. after his prison term
Following his term, Gutierrez-Garcia, who is not a U.S. citizen, is anticipated to undergo removal proceedings. In determining his sentence, the court took into consideration the hazardous conditions inside the trailer, law enforcement’s strenuous efforts in punishing heat, and previous declarations from four noncitizens. The presiding judge made a stern observation that Gutierrez-Garcia was fortunate that the grim outcome wasn’t more severe. The judge further criticized his action of fleeing into the wilderness, neglecting to assist the endangered noncitizens who were in dire need of help.
Court records highlight that Gutierrez-Garcia, on June 6, 2022, was driving a semi-truck hauling a belly-dump trailer packed with 63 individuals hailing from Mexico and Guatemala. The trailer, constructed of metal and ensheathed in a vinyl tarp, became a stifling heat trap with limited airflow for its human cargo.
Upon seeing people tumbling from a tear in the tarp, Gutierrez-Garcia halted the truck on a private ranch road in western Webb County. He was spotted by law enforcement officials near the cab of the truck. Medical personnel and officers promptly attended to those inside the trailer and the escapees. Tragically, one individual was found deceased at the bottom of the trailer’s pit.
After a subsequent search, authorities located Gutierrez-Garcia concealed in the brush, who initially professed that he was merely another passenger. He remains in custody awaiting transfer to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility. The case was successfully prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Homero Ramirez of the Southern District of Texas.
“Transporting dozens of human beings in a vinyl-covered, all metal trailer in the South Texas summer heat demonstrates the callousness and indifference of smugglers to human life,” said U.S. Attorney Alamdar S. Hamdani for the Southern District of Texas. “The sweltering heat that built up in this vehicle — which was designed not for people, but for hauling sand, rock and other materials — maximized the potential for injury and the eventual and tragic death of one of the victims. Gutierrez-Garcia will now pay the price for his inhumane crime.”
The HSI San Antonio remains committed to tackling the severe risk to public safety engendered by human smuggling organizations and their reckless indifference towards the health and welfare of their victims. We implore the public to report any suspicious smuggling activities by dialing 866-348-2423.
The HSI serves as the primary investigative branch of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), entrusted with the responsibility of probing transnational criminal activities and threats, particularly those criminal syndicates that take advantage of international trade, travel, and finance systems. With a robust workforce of over 8,700 employees, inclusive of more than 6,000 special agents, HSI extends its reach across 237 cities within the United States, and maintains a significant presence in 93 locations across 56 countries abroad. HSI’s international footprint is the most extensive among DHS’s investigative law enforcement entities, and it ranks among the largest globally in U.S. law enforcement.