Two Guatemalan Nationals Sentenced for Human Smuggling Conspiracy in West Texas

Two Guatemalan nationals were sentenced this week in the Western District of Texas for their role in a prolific human smuggling conspiracy that resulted in the death of a migrant. 

Armando Gael Galicia, aka Artemio Diego Andres Gonzalez, aka Luis Moreno-Gonzalez, 27, was sentenced today to 17 years and six months in federal custody. Jose Diego Tercero-Gonzalez, 23, was sentenced on Sept. 14 to 15 years and eight months in federal custody.

According to court documents, Gael Galicia and Tercero-Gonzalez were responsible for smuggling a young indigenous Guatemalan woman. In May 2021, her body was discovered in a remote area outside of Odessa, Texas. In August 2021, Gael Galicia and Tercero-Gonzalez were arrested near the trailer where the victim was taken and died. Inside the trailer were additional migrants who had entered the country unlawfully.

The case is related to the recent guilty pleas of Felipe Diego Alonzo, Nesly Norberto Martinez Gomez, Lopez Mateo Mateo, and Juan Gutierrez Castro for their involvement in the Guatemala-based human smuggling conspiracy that led to the young woman’s death. 

Acting Assistant Attorney General Nicole M. Argentieri of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Jaime Esparza for the Western District of Texas, Executive Associate Director Katrina W. Berger of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), and Senior Official Performing the Duties of the Commissioner Troy Miller of Customs and Border Protection (CBP) made the announcement.

This investigation was coordinated through Joint Task Force Alpha (JTFA). JTFA was created in June 2021 by Attorney General Merrick B. Garland, in partnership with Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Alejandro N. Mayorkas, to strengthen the Justice Department’s efforts to combat the rise in prolific and dangerous smuggling emanating from Central America and impacting our border communities. JTFA’s goal is to disrupt and dismantle human smuggling and trafficking networks operating in El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Mexico, with a focus on networks that endanger, abuse, or exploit migrants, present national security risks, or engage in other types of transnational organized crime.

HSI Midland investigated the case, working in concert with HSI Guatemala and the HSI Human Smuggling Unit in Washington, D.C. HSI received substantial assistance from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Enforcement and Removal Operations, ICE’s Parole and Law Enforcement Programs Unit, U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s National Targeting Center/Operation Sentinel, U.S. Border Patrol, U.S. Marshals Service, the Odessa and Midland Police Departments, the Texas Department of Public Safety, and the Ector County, Midland County, and Crane County Sheriffs’ Offices. The Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs (OIA), and Office of Prosecutorial Development, Assistance, and Training (OPDAT) provided significant assistance in this matter.

JTFA Co-Director James Hepburn of the Criminal Division’s Human Rights and Special Prosecutions Section and Assistant U.S. Attorneys John Fedock and Jose Luis Acosta for the Western District of Texas are prosecuting the case, with assistance from HRSP Historian/Latin America Specialist Joanna Crandall and Trial Attorney Daria Andryushchenko of the Criminal Division’s Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section. Former Assistant U.S. Attorney Glenn Harwood for the Western District of Texas provided substantial assistance. The Justice Department thanks Guatemalan law enforcement, who were instrumental in furthering this investigation.

Since its creation, JTFA has successfully increased collaboration between the Justice Department, DHS, and other interagency law enforcement participants, and with foreign law enforcement partners, including in El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Mexico; targeted those organizations who have the most impact on the United States; and coordinated significant smuggling indictments and extradition efforts in U.S. Attorneys’ Offices across the country resulting in over 250 domestic and international arrests. JTFA is comprised of detailees from southwest border, U.S. Attorneys’ Offices, including the Southern District of Texas, Western District of Texas, District of New Mexico, District of Arizona, and Southern District of California, and dedicated support for the program is also provided by numerous components of the Criminal Division that are part of JTFA – led by the Human Rights and Special Prosecutions Section, and supported by OPDAT, the Narcotic and Dangerous Drug Section, the Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section, the Office of Enforcement Operations, OIA, and the Organized Crime and Gang Section. JTFA also relies on substantial law enforcement investment from DHS, FBI, DEA, and other partners.