DENVER – Troy A. Eid, 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 that a federal grand jury in Denver has returned an indictment charging JOSE FRANCISCO FRANCO-RODRIGUEZ, age 23, of Mexico, with transporting unlawfully aliens in the United States resulting in death, and with unlawful reentry of a previously deported alien. FRANCO-RODRIGUEZ is presently in state custody. An arrest warrant has been issued ordering US Marshals to transfer the defendant to federal custody. The timing of the transfer will be coordinated with the Eagle County District Attorney’s Office.
On November 27, 2006, FRANCO-RODRIGUEZ was allegedly driving a van eastbound on I-70 packed with 14 other people in the United States illegally, when he lost control and crashed. The crash resulted in the death of three men and a pregnant woman. Other injured passengers were transported to area hospitals, and are now being held as witnesses.
In addition to the transportation of illegal aliens resulting in death charge, FRANCO-RODRIGUEZ also faces a charge of unlawfully reentering the United States after previously being deported. On October 23, 2005, an immigration judge in Atlanta, Georgia, ordered the defendant deported from the United States. The defendant was found in Colorado following the crash on I-70.
The penalty for transportation of aliens illegally in the United States resulting in death is any term of years imprisonment, up to and including life, and up to a $250,000 fine. The statute also has a provision for prosecutors in extreme cases to seek the death penalty. Prosecutors are not seeking the death penalty in this case. The penalty for illegally reentering the United States after deportation is not more than 5 years in federal prison, and/or up to a $250,000 fine.
“Human smugglers show utter contempt for the lives of their passengers and for the innocent people who travel Colorado’s roads and highways,” said U.S. Attorney Troy Eid. “Law enforcement leaders at every level – state, local, tribal and federal – must work closely together to ensure that justice is done in these cases.”
“Alien smugglers routinely show their greed and disregard for human life by packing 14 people in a van designed to hold five,” said Jeffrey Copp, Special Agent in Charge of the ICE Office of Investigations in Denver. “This dangerous policy is designed to maximize their illegal profits, and which ultimately led to the deaths of four people in this case. Combating alien smuggling is a high priority for our ICE agents.”
This case was investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Colorado State Patrol, and the Clear Creek County Sheriff’s Office. The Eagle County District Attorney’s Office played an integral role in this investigation, and will assist with the federal prosecution. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Joseph Mackey.