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Man pleads guilty in tractor trailer human smuggling scheme that killed 53


Authorities in Texas say that a man has pleaded guilty to a charge in a tractor trailer human smuggling scheme that killed 53 people in 2022.

Luis Alberto Rivera-Leal (aka Cowboy), 38, pleaded guilty in a San Antonio federal court to one count of conspiracy to transport aliens placing lives in jeopardy, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Texas.

Authorities say that Rivera-Leal is a Mexican citizen who was a member of an organization responsible for a fatal human smuggling attempt in San Antonio on June 27, 2022.

The smuggling attempt resulted in the deaths of 53 people, including six children, from heat-related illness after being locked in a hot trailer. At least 66 people were inside the trailer during the smuggling attempt.

As part of the smuggling scheme, the organization would illegally bring children and adults from Guatemala, Honduras, and Mexico into the U.S. using tractor trailers, and Rivera-Leal would then meet the tractor trailers in San Antonio and transport the smuggled individuals to Houston in a personal vehicle.

Rivera-Leal is the fourth person to plead guilty in this case. Truck driver Homero Zamorano Jr., 47, as well as Felipe Orduna-Torres, 29, and Armando Gonzales-Ortega, 54, also pleaded guilty. All three of these cases are still pending.

Rivera-Leal faces up to twenty years in prison.


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