DENVER – LAWFUEL – The Law News Network – Bill Leone, Acting…

DENVER – LAWFUEL – The Law News Network – Bill Leone, Acting United States Attorney for the District of Colorado, and Jeffrey Copp, Special Agent in Charge of the Denver office of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), announced JOSE ANGEL CRISPIN-DIAZ, age 38, and LEONARDO CORDOVA-PEREZ, age 18, were sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge Walker D. Miller today for transporting aliens unlawfully present in the United States for financial gain resulting in death. The two are scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Miller on July 22, 2005. JOSE ANGEL CRISPIN-DIAZ was sentenced to serve 78 months in federal prison by Judge Miller. LEONARDO CORDOVA-PEREZ was also ordered to serve 78 months in federal prison. Both men remain in custody. Both defendants were also ordered to jointly pay restitution of $73,206 to Saint Anthony Hospital.

According to the plea agreement entered on April 20, 2005, in March 2005, the defendants, both of whom are illegal aliens, separately traveled from their homeland in Mexico to the United States. LEONARDO CORDOVA-PEREZ had paid a smuggler to get him into the United States. Once in the U.S., the smuggler asked him to drive a truck containing illegal aliens to Florida, Arkansas, and Alabama. CORDOVA-PEREZ also agreed to collect money from the families of the smuggled aliens once he dropped them off at their destinations. The smuggler gave him $499 to pay for gasoline, and a list of passengers who were to make the trip. By agreeing to drive and collect the money, CORDOVA-PEREZ would not have to pay the smuggler $600 that he still owed.

When JOSE ANGEL CRISPIN-DIAZ arrived in Phoenix, he agreed to assist CORDOVA-PEREZ in driving the truck. He was going to be paid $500 for driving. Both defendants knew that the passengers were illegally in the United States, and that it was illegal to drive them.

On March 11, 2005, CORDOVA-PEREZ picked up 21 other illegal aliens and left Phoenix, driving a 1991 white Chevrolet pickup truck. Fourteen people sat in the rear bed of the pickup truck underneath a camper shell. Eight people sat up front in the cab area. CORDOVA-PEREZ drove into Colorado, and at approximately 4:00 a.m. the morning of March 12, 2005, changed places with CRISPIN-DIAZ who began driving somewhere along US Highway 160.

That same day at approximately 6:20 a.m. the truck was involved in a one vehicle rollover crash, which occurred on U.S. Highway 160 eastbound, near the summit of Wolf Creek Pass. Colorado State Patrol (CSP) Investigators later determined that the roads were dry and the weather was sunny with clear visibility. The CSP also determined that the truck was traveling at 75 miles per hour and that the advisory speed limit for the curve near the crash was 30 miles per hour, with a posted speed limit of 45 miles per hour.

One passenger, Jonas Medina-Ovardo, died at the scene. Another passenger, Carmelo Luna-Guzman was flown to St. Mary’s Hospital in Grand Junction, Colorado, where he died the next day from his injuries. The remaining passengers were taken to area hospitals or flown to Swedish Hospital in Denver or San Juan Regional Medical Center in Farmington, New Mexico.

Further investigation by Special Agents with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement determined that passengers paid anywhere from $1,100 to $1,800 to be driven within the United States.

“The many emergency personnel who responded to the scene of this horrific accident deserve recognition and praise,” Acting United States Attorney Bill Leone said. “I also want to recognize the hard work of the Colorado State Patrol, ICE agents, and the federal prosecutors who worked to hold those responsible for this crash accountable.”

“To maximize their profits, these two alien smugglers overloaded their smuggling van with 21 aliens resulting in two deaths and numerous severe injuries,” said Jeffrey Copp, special agent-in-charge of the Denver Office of Investigations with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). “To smugglers, the profit is their highest priority; they have no regard for the lives of the people they’re smuggling, and those who travel on the roads with them.”

This case was investigated by agents from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement with assistance from the Colorado State Patrol. The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Suneeta Hazra and James Candelaria.

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