Marcos Soto-Mendoza, 43, of Tonalisco, Nayarit, Mexico, was sentenced to 15 years in federal prison followed by three years of supervised release this week. On April 12, 2013, Soto-Mendoza was found guilty by a jury of five counts of bringing in an illegal alien for profit.
On June 29, 2011, Border Patrol agents responded to a citizen’s call in regard to a distressed suspected illegal alien in the Village of Pisinemo, on the Tohono O’odham Nation. Border Patrol agents made contact with Abad Uriostegui-Uriostegui who stated that he had illegally entered the United States with a group of five other individuals who were in distress out in the desert. Agents proceeded to the location in the desert where Uriostegui-Uriostegui had last seen his companions and located five additional individuals. Three living persons, the defendant Marcos Soto-Mendoza, Juan Garcia-Delgado, and Marcos Mojica-Lagunas, were found in a highly distressed and dehydrated state. Two other members of the group already had died from exposure to the extreme summer conditions.
Soto-Mendoza, Garcia-Delgado, and Mojica-Lagunas were all determined to be citizens of Mexico who had illegally entered the United States. Upon questioning, Soto-Mendoza was identified as their guide, to whom they agreed to pay between $2,200 and $2,500 per person.
On several occasions after illegally entering the United States, Soto-Mendoza informed the group that they would be resupplied with water at a ranch. However, he never led them to a water source and had them continue to walk through the desert. One of the deceased asked Soto-Mendoza to use his cell phone to call for help as the group had little to no water and were suffering from dehydration, but he told her no. At the direction of Soto-Mendoza, the group continued to walk until either (1) they no longer could or (2) they broke off on their own to look for water and/or help.
The investigation in this case was conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Sells, U.S. Border Patrol, and the Tohono O’odham Police Department. The prosecution was handled by David Savel and Arturo Aguilar, District of Arizona, Tucson.