SAN DIEGO: A Mexican national who coordinated a human-smuggling operation that led to the deaths of 13 migrants in a 2021 highway crash near the Mexico-California border was sentenced to 15 years in prison on Thursday by a US federal judge.
Jose Cruz Noguez, 49, a permanent US resident from Mexicali, Mexico, received the sentence after pleading guilty in March in US District Court for Southern California to conspiracy to bring in undocumented migrants and bringing in undocumented migrants for financial gain.
Shortly after crossing into the US in March 2021, one of two SUVs that Cruz Noguez had crammed with migrants crashed with a tractor-trailer, killing 13 Mexican and Guatemalan migrants and seriously injuring many.
Following the accident, Cruz Noguez told a federal informant that he was trying to collect payment from the migrants who survived, the justice department announced.
Before handing down his sentence, US district judge Cathy Ann Bencivengo described Cruz Noguez as “monstrous and cruel,” and said the incident was “among the worst of cases I have seen,” the justice department said.