DEL RIO – Federal agents arrested the tenth and final defendant charged in an 11-count indictment involving human smuggling. The following are charged with one count of conspiracy to transport undocumented noncitizens: Sebastian Tovar, 25, of Toledo, Ohio; Nicolas Mondragon-Gonzalez, aka “Chayo” and “Flaco,” 33, of Austin; Veronica Torres-Mendez, 34, of Austin; Jennifer Oralia Davis, aka “Paypa,” 40, of San Antonio; Ruben Junior Rodriguez-Jaimes, 19, of Bastrop; Lauren Michelle Malmquist, aka “Mama” and “Lala,” 32, of Round Rock; Eduardo Rivera Benitez, aka “Lalo” and “Casper,” 23, of Bastrop; Marco Antonio Hernandez, aka “Temo,” 19, of Paige; and Jose Eli Rodriguez, 21, of Austin.
According to court documents, on March 15, 2021, Tovar was driving a Dodge Ram near Del Rio when a Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) trooper attempted to stop the vehicle. Tovar tried to evade law enforcement and eventually crashed the vehicle into oncoming traffic. Eight people, who were in the truck, died from injuries sustained from the crash as well as one person who was seriously injured. All nine were undocumented noncitizens and illegally present in the U.S. In addition, two U.S. citizens were seriously injured in the head-on collision when Tovar struck their vehicle.
After the crash, U.S. Border Patrol (USBP) agents encountered a Ford F-150 stopped in traffic near the crash site. USBP agents directed the Ford to turn around and subsequently all occupants of the Ford fled the vehicle, absconding into nearby brush. USBP agents were able to locate 12 undocumented noncitizens who bolted from the Ford. After interviewing two of the undocumented noncitizens, USBP agents determined that the occupants of the Dodge and Ford were part of a human smuggling operation that was illegally transporting 20 undocumented noncitizens in the U.S.
Tovar, Mondragon, Torres, Davis, Rodriguez-Jaimes, Malmquist and Benitez are also charged with one count of transporting undocumented noncitizens resulting in death. Tovar is also charged with one count of conspiracy to transport undocumented noncitizens resulting in serious bodily injury and one count of illegal transportation of undocumented noncitizens resulting in serious bodily injury. Mondragon, Davis and Rodriguez-Jaimes are additionally charged with two counts of transportation of undocumented noncitizens. Torres is additionally charged with four counts of transportation of undocumented noncitizens. Hernandez, Jose Rodriguez, and Luna are additional charged with one count of transportation of undocumented noncitizens.
All defendants face a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison for the conspiracy to transport undocumented noncitizens. Tovar, Mondragon, Torres, Davis, Rodriguez-Jaimes, Malmquist and Benitez face a maximum of life in prison for the transportation of undocumented resulting in death charge. Tovar faces a maximum 20 years in prison on each of the conspiracy to transport and the transportation of undocumented noncitizens resulting in serious bodily injury charges. Mondragon, Torres, Davis, Rodriguez-Jaimes, Hernandez, Jose Rodriguez and Luna face up to 10 years in prison for each count of transportation charged. If convictions result, a federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
U.S. Attorney Ashley C. Hoff of the Western District of Texas and HSI Special Agent in Charge Shane Folden made the announcement.
HSI, USBP and DPS are investigating the case.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Joshua Banister is prosecuting the case.
An indictment is merely an allegation and all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.