Mexican Man Charged in SUV Smuggling Attempt That Led to Deadly Crash With Semi-Truck
El Centro, CA – A man authorities say orchestrated a human smuggling attempt last month in California that resulted in the deaths of 13 people has been charged with numerous crimes.
According to the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) for the Southern District of California, Jose Cruz Noguez, 47, of Mexicali, Mexico, was charged in federal court this week with coordinating the March 2, 2021 smuggling event that led to a deadly crash between a Ford Expedition SUV and a semi-truck.
The highly publicized crash resulted in the deaths of 13 Mexican and Guatemalan nationals.
Click HERE to read Transportation Nation Network’s report on precisely what led to the accident.
The DOJ said Cruz came to the attention of law enforcement when he was identified by another suspected smuggler who claimed to be an associate having assisted Cruz in previous smuggling operations.
The associate, whose identity was not revealed, was arrested at the Campo Border Patrol Station for an unrelated smuggling event on March 15.
The associate pointed the finger at Cruz, telling authorities he had worked for Cruz in the past, and had been recruited by Cruz to be the driver of the ill-fated vehicle from that tragic day.
Cruz allegedly offered the associate $1,000 per passenger, but he declined, the DOJ said.
According to the complaint against Cruz, on March 26, 2021, the suspected smuggler who claimed to be an associate of Cruz participated in a secretly recorded conversation with Cruz.
During the recorded call, Cruz confirmed his involvement in the March 2, 2021, event and stated there were 60 “Pollos” – his term for customers – in the two vehicles attempting to illegally cross into the U.S. at that time.
The driver of the Ford SUV was going to make $28,000, Cruz was heard to tell his associate, the DOJ said.
Cruz is facing charges including Conspiracy to Bring Aliens to the United States Outside a Port of Entry Causing Serious Bodily Injury/Placing a Life in Jeopardy, and Bringing in Aliens Without Presentation for Financial Gain.
The matter was set for a preliminary hearing on April 13, 2021 at 9 a.m. and arraignment on April 27, 2021.
If convicted on the charges, he could be sentenced to serve at least 30 years in prison.