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South Texas human smuggler sentenced to more than 8 years in federal prison

2 Jun

LAREDO, Texas — A South Texas man was sentenced Wednesday to eight years in federal prison after he led police on a high-speed chase in a smuggling vehicle with illegal aliens before crashing into another vehicle and causing serious injuries to several Laredo residents.

This sentencing was announced by Acting U.S. Attorney Abe Martinez, Southern District of Texas.  This investigation was led by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigation (HSI), with the assistance of U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) Border Patrol.

Jovanni Rodarte, 20, from Rio Bravo, Texas, was sentenced May 17 by U.S. District Judge Marina Garcia Marmolejo to 97 months in federal prison, followed by three years of supervised release. At the sentencing hearing, the court heard that Rodarte has been involved in gang violence while incarcerated, and he has had multiple encounters with law enforcement while smuggling aliens. The government also described the incredible injuries that Rodarte inflicted on multiple innocent people. The court heard from a victim’s wife who described the tremendous pain her husband has endured since the crash and the toll the crash has taken on her entire family. In handing down the sentence, Judge Marmolejo noted that she would be “entirely justified” in imposing the maximum under law. She added that despite given multiple opportunities, Rodarte had done nothing good with his life, but had instead immeasurably impacted multiple innocent peoples’ lives, including a mother and her son. Rodarte was also ordered to pay $192,997.20 in restitution to the victims.

Rodarte pleaded guilty to the charges Dec. 8, 2016.

“HSI is dedicated to working closely with all of our law enforcement partners to effectively in identify, arrest and prosecute individuals involved in exploiting people,” said Folden. “Criminals who illegally smuggle people into and throughout the country place personal profit ahead of public safety. For this reason, HSI will continue to utilize its broad authorities to dismantle human smuggling organizations.”

According to court documents, on Oct. 5, 2016, Rodarte was transporting two illegal aliens when a Webb County Sheriff’s Officer attempted to effect a traffic stop. Instead of pulling over, Rodarte led several officers on a chase through the El Cenizo neighborhood of Laredo. During the chase, Rodarte drove more than 100 miles per hour through the residential area.

Rodarte crashed into a school fence and into a vehicle containing three Laredo residents, including a mother and son who were returning from a medical appointment. Law enforcement performed first-aid at the scene.  But several of the vehicles’ occupants needed to be air-lifted to hospitals in Laredo and San Antonio. The three occupants in the vehicle Rodarte struck all sustained serious injuries that will require years of ongoing treatment.

One of the aliens was thrown from Rodarte’s vehicle and also sustained injuries. Rodarte, however, avoided any serious injuries from the crash.

He will remain in custody pending transfer to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near future.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys, Chris Howard, Southern District of Texas, prosecuted this case