Three human smugglers face prison time after pleading guilty to hauling illegal immigrants in the trunk of a car. One fled capture and crashed his vehicle–injuring the migrants in tow.
Cristian Ivan Acosta, 28, of Rio Rico, Arizona; Valente De Jesus Quintero Miranda, 26, of Tucson; and Naomi Dayanara Steele-Acosta, 25, of Rio Rico, pleaded guilty in an Arizona federal court recently to charges of smuggling illegal aliens for profit, Nogales International reported. The convictions follow a stash house investigation conducted by Homeland Security Investigations agents. The agents observed a man they later identified as Acosta making plans to haul migrants in a Chevrolet Cruze sedan.
Court records obtained by the local newspaper revealed that agents overheard Acosta planning to smuggle illegal immigrants from Rio Rico to Phoenix in March 2018.
Agents followed Acosta as he drove four migrants from a stash house to an RV. The plea agreement states that Acosta ordered the transportation of 27 from the stash house to the RV. The agents attempted to stop Acosta but he managed to avoid apprehension at that time.
On August 23, Border Patrol agents near Sonoita, Arizona, got into a pursuit with a silver Infinity Q50. License plate records showed the car to be a rental vehicle from Hertz. The car was overdue on its return.
Officials said the were unable to apprehend the driver at that time “due to weather and road concerns,” the records stated. A few weeks later, Border Patrol agents in the same area were advised to watch out for a white Dodge Charger, a white Jeep Cherokee, and/or a silver Infiniti.
The agents spotted two of the vehicles driving in a caravan a short time later. Agents said the registration on the Jeep came back to Steel-Acosta. Police database records showed the woman had previously been involved in human smuggling. She was also the sister of Acosta, the local newspaper reported.
As the agents attempted a traffic stop, the Infinity fled at a high rate of speed. Officials estimated the speed of the Infiniti at about 100 miles per hour. The driver wildly drove on and off the roadway and then jumped into oncoming traffic before crashing into a 25-foot drop-off into a ditch, records show.
The agents quickly caught up with the crashed Infinity and observed smoke coming from the vehicle. The agents also noticed the vehicle’s airbags had deployed. When the driver refused to get out of the vehicle, agents broke the windows and extracted the driver and two injured passengers from the cabin area of the Infinity. The agents identified the driver as Quintero and the passengers as illegal immigrants.
After hearing sounds coming from the trunk of the vehicle, agents opened the trunk and discovered two more migrants locked inside. Agents said three of the migrants were male and one was female. They came from Mexico and Honduras. Agents transported all of the parties to a hospital for evaluation and treatment.
Quintero admitted to fleeing from Border Patrol agents during this incident and in the earlier incident involving the Infiniti.
Quintero and Steele-Acosta face up to 41 months in federal prison while Acosta faces up to 63 months, according to their plea agreements.