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Old 11-10-2009, 02:34 AM
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Jeanfromfillmore Jeanfromfillmore is offline
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Default Man Gets 14 Years in Immigrant Smuggling Case

Man Gets 14 Years in Immigrant Smuggling Case
Updated: Monday, 09 Nov 2009, 8:56 PM CST
Published : Monday, 09 Nov 2009, 8:56 PM CST
JUAN A. LOZANO, Associated Press Writer
HOUSTON - A Texas man was sentenced Monday to more than 14 years in prison for his role in what became the deadliest human smuggling attempt in U.S. history.
Abelardo Flores was part of a smuggling ring that packed more than 70 illegal immigrants into the back of a stifling tractor-trailer in May 2003 and tried to transport them from southern Texas to Houston, prosecutors said.
The immigrants, from Mexico, Honduras, El Salvador and the Dominican Republic, were found after the driver, whom Flores had recruited, abandoned the trailer at a truck stop in Victoria, about 100 miles southwest of Houston.
Seventeen people were found dead in the trailer, and two others died later, all of dehydration, overheating and suffocation.
Erik Sunde, Flores' attorney, said his client, before being sentenced, acknowledged what he had done.
"He expressed deep remorse for the loss of life in the case and in open court he apologized to the families, one by one, of the decedents," Sunde said.
Flores, 40, from the southern Texas town of Harlingen, was also fined $3,000 by U.S. District Judge Vanessa Gilmore.
He had previously pleaded guilty to a smuggling conspiracy charge and was given a reduced sentence as part of an agreement with federal prosecutors. Flores had been indicted on 58 counts and had faced up to life in prison.
As part of the plea deal, Flores testified at the trials of seven co-defendants.
Sunde said prosecutors had recommended that Flores receive a sentence of 10 years, but Gilmore decided to impose a sentence of more than 14 years.
"We felt Gilmore's sentence was thoughtful and reasonable under the circumstances. Mr. Flores has indicated he will not be appealing the sentence," Sunde said.
Twelve people, including Flores, have been convicted for their roles in the smuggling attempt and are serving prison terms, prosecutors said. The final sentencing in the case is set for January.
The driver of the trailer, Tyrone Williams, was sentenced in January 2007 to life in prison. Prosecutors had sought the death penalty against him.
Authorities said the temperature in the trailer reached 173 degrees. Survivors testified the immigrants took off their sweat-drenched clothes for relief and crowded around holes they punched in the truck so they could breathe. They also kicked out a signal light to try to get the attention of passing motorists.
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