Tucson resident Michael Lopez-Loreto, 22, has been sentenced by the U.S. District Court for conspiracy to transport illegal immigrants for profit and placing the life of a person in jeopardy.
According to a Tuesday release from the Arizona District of the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Lopez-Loreto is going to jail for two-and-a-half years following an incident in January 2023. After receiving a call from a property owner reporting an unidentified car parked on their land, Border Patrol agents witnessed people running through the desert into Lopez-Loreto’s car. However, the group ran into agents blocking the road before he could make it far.
“At that time, an agent activated his emergency equipment; however, Lopez-Loreto sped up and maneuvered around agents and their patrol vehicles to evade apprehension. As he sped away, Lopez-Loreto narrowly missed striking agents who were standing outside their vehicles,” according to the report.
Officers deployed road spikes in the ensuing chase. The young driver swerved into the oncoming lane to avoid the hazards but ultimately crashed into water barriers, rolling his vehicle. The two passengers were injured during the crash and taken to hospital for treatment. Officials determined both were illegal immigrants Lopez-Loreto was smuggling into the country. Once he is released from jail, he will be on supervised release for an additional three years.
As reported by The Arizona Sun Times, John Modlin, the Chief Border Patrol Agent of the Tucson sector, recently held a campaign warning U.S. citizens to avoid scams recruiting them to smuggle illegal immigrants into the country. Criminal organizations often promise quick cash for an easy driving job but often leave out that the transport will involve illegal immigrants.
As seen in Lopez-Loreto’s case, there are real consequences for smuggling illegal immigrants into the country, and he is not alone. On Thursday, Modlin shared that officers found two illegal immigrants in the car of a U.S. citizen, and all three were arrested. Moreover, a similar case was announced Tuesday as four illegal immigrants were discovered in a rental car. The two U.S. citizen drivers now face criminal charges.
Additionally, Modlin showed that there has been significant activity at the border recently. On Wednesday, he stated that his sector saw 2,010 apprehensions over three days, including 15 illegal immigrants with criminal records, eight different human smuggling events, and seven narcotics incidents. He also shared that stations along Arizona’s southern border encountered multiple groups of 200-plus illegal immigrants over the weekend. With temperatures rising over 100 degrees under the desert sun, he said these illegal immigrants are at risk of heat-related illnesses while trying to cross into the country.
On Friday, Ajo Station agents encountered a group of 291 migrants. This was followed by 208 on Saturday and 213 on Sunday. Sunday's high in Lukeville, AZ, was 100°, drastically increasing the risk migrants face in the desert.
Crossing the border illegally is extremely dangerous. pic.twitter.com/ibET0qIiFc
— John R. Modlin (@USBPChiefTCA) May 16, 2023
The situation at the southern border presents dangers for the border patrol agents on the front line of this crisis. The U.S. Attorney’s Office made two more announcements Tuesday, sharing charges against Mexican citizens for assaulting officers. The first, Alfredo Perez-Rodriguez, 18, was confronted by border patrol agents along the border on May 8th. During an attempted arrest, Perez-Rodriguez resisted, gained control of the agent’s taser, and pointed it at the officer’s face and chest. Perez-Rodriguez was eventually subdued and arrested.
On May 5th, Adbiel Martinez-Barrera, 21, was found with a female by an agent near Douglas, Arizona. As the agent attempted to detain the female, Martinez-Barrera jumped on the officer from behind, pinning the agent to the ground. He used his hand to cover the officer’s mouth and did not let go until the officer stopped struggling. The two ran but were eventually discovered by other agents.
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