Mexican citizen sentenced for human smuggling resulting in death of child following HSI investigation
BROWNSVILLE, Texas — A federal judge sentenced Miguel Angel Ceballos-Acuna, 30, a Mexican citizen residing illegally in the United States, to federal prison following his conviction of attempted human smuggling resulting in the death of a child. Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the U.S. Border Patrol, the Brownsville Police Department and the Cameron County District Attorney’s Office investigated the case.
U.S. District Judge Roland Olvera sentenced Ceballos-Acuna to 57 months in federal prison. Not a U.S. citizen, he is expected to face removal proceedings following his imprisonment. In handing down the sentence, the court noted the seriousness of Ceballos-Acuna’s crime and the need to deter him and others from engaging in similar conduct. Ceballos-Acuna pleaded guilty March 7.
“The tragic loss of life in this case is an example of the very real risks people face when they put their lives in the hands of smugglers,” said HSI San Antonio Special Agent in Charge Craig Larrabee. “Those responsible for illegally moving people through our country place personal profit ahead of public safety. Driven by greed, these criminals have little regard for the health and well-being of those they smuggle. This callousness too often leads to tragic outcomes.”
“Take note: Human smugglers do not care about your child’s safety,” said U.S. Attorney Alamdar S. Hamdani. “All they care about is money. In this case, a young boy tragically lost his life due to the reckless actions of this criminal. The Southern District of Texas is committed to the vigorous prosecution of those who traffic in human lives and the pursuit of justice for all victims — many of them young children.”
According to court documents, on March 22, 2022, law enforcement officials responded to reports of suspected human smuggling near the border fence on the University of Texas’ Rio Grande Valley campus. Two people crossed the border fence and got in a white SUV, which authorities chased at high speeds. The vehicle ran multiple red lights, and officials eventually disengaged due to safety concerns. However, the vehicle continued traveling at high speeds and crashed into a utility pole in a residential neighborhood. When law enforcement officials arrived on the scene, they discovered the body of a 14-year-old Mexican citizen.
As part of his plea, Ceballos-Acuna admitted that he and another person drove the white SUV that day to pick up a person who had illegally entered the United States. When they arrived at the Rio Grande Valley campus, two noncitizens entered the vehicle, including the minor victim. Ceballos-Acuna admitted that he knew the minor victim was unlawfully present in the United States. Nevertheless, he attempted to transport the victim, which resulted in his death.
Ceballos-Acuna remains in custody pending transfer to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Edgardo J. Rodriguez and Megan Eyes for the Southern District of Texas prosecuted the case.
HSI San Antonio continues to address the serious public safety threat posed by human smuggling organizations and their reckless disregard for the health and safety of the people they exploit. To report suspicious smuggling activity, call 866-347-2423.
HSI is the principal investigative arm of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), responsible for investigating transnational crime and threats, specifically those criminal organizations that exploit the global infrastructure through which international trade, travel, and finance move. HSI’s workforce of more than 8,700 employees consists of more than 6,000 special agents assigned to 237 cities throughout the United States, and 93 overseas locations in 56 countries. HSI’s international presence represents DHS’s largest investigative law enforcement presence abroad and one of the largest international footprints in U.S. law enforcement.