Jose Cruz Noguez, 47, from Mexicali, Mexico, was arrested entering the United States at the Calexico Port of Entry and received two different smuggling-related charges in federal court on Tuesday.
A Mexican man has been accused of human trafficking after allegedly masterminding an illegal border crossing that resulted in the deaths of 13 migrants.
Jose Cruz Noguez, 47, was arrested Tuesday – four weeks after the migrants died in a fiery crash that occurred in Holtville, California on March 2.
Cruz is accused of stuffing 44 migrants from Mexico and Guatemala into two separate SUVs, which were then driven through a 3-meter breach in a fence on the US southern border.
19 migrants reportedly packed in a GMC Yukon, while another 25 migrants were put in a Ford Explorer SUV.
Both vehicles entered the United States illegally through the hole in the border fence shortly before sunrise.
But minutes later, the Ford Explorer collided with a tractor-trailer on a California highway, killing 13 of the migrants crammed into the car.
Cruz has now been charged with bringing undocumented migrants into the country for financial gain, as well as conspiring to bring Mexican and Guatemalan nationals into the US outside a port of entry.
Cruz reportedly coordinated the March 2 operation that led to an accident near Holtville that killed 13 Mexican and Guatemalan nationals
In addition to the wrecked SUV, another had been involved in the March 2 smuggling operation. Pictured: Officials respond to the scene where the SUV crashed into a truck
Cruz reportedly lives in Mexicali, Mexico, but is a legal resident of the United States.
In a statement released Tuesday evening, US acting lawyer Randy Grossman said: “ These smuggling networks strive for maximum profit by moving as many people across the border as possible without regard to their safety and well-being.
“Cramming dozens of people into eight-person vehicles and driving recklessly to avoid detection shows total disregard for human life.”
Cruz was identified as the mastermind of the operation when another suspected smuggler, who claimed to be his associate, defrauded him, prosecutors said.
The unnamed colleague was arrested on March 15 at the Campo Border Patrol Station for an unrelated smuggling incident.
Two weeks before the trip, Cruz reportedly offered his smuggling partner $ 1,000 for every passenger he brought into the US.
Cruz also reportedly told the employee he would oversee the smuggling event and ensure that the vehicles crossing over would go to a warehouse in Holtville.
The scene of a collision between an SUV and a tractor-trailer can be seen near Holtville, California on March 2.
Cruz is said to have offered his employee $ 1,000 per passenger two weeks before the trip, but he declined
The alleged employee then took part in a secretly taped conversation with Cruz in which he allegedly confirmed his involvement in the March 2 surgery.
The crash site is located in southeastern California, about 10 miles east of El Centro and about 10 miles north of the Mexican border
The alleged employee then took part in a secretly taped conversation with Cruz before US authorities, in which he allegedly confirmed his involvement in the March 2 operation.
Cruz was arrested Monday when he arrived at the US border through a legal gateway.
In addition to the 13 who died, several others were injured in the accident and prosecutors claimed that all seats, except for the driver and front passenger seats in the Ford Explorer SUV, had been removed, “ presumably to fit that large number of people. ”
A California Highway Patrol spokesman said the tractor trailer driver suffered moderate injuries and was also hospitalized
Cruz faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison if convicted on the basis of the charges.
Numerous people were thrown from the vehicle in a collision, with injuries ranging in severity from fractures to head trauma