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Man responsible for “retrieval” of rig used in massively fatal human smuggling attempt pleads guilty

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Man pleads guilty in fatal semi truck smuggling incident that left 53 people dead inside of a sweltering trailer in San Antonio in 2022. 

31-year-old Riley Covarrubias-Ponce, also known as Rrili and Rilay, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to transport illegal aliens resulting in death, conspiracy to transport aliens resulting in serious bodily injury and placing lives in jeopardy; transportation of illegal aliens resulting in death; transportation of illegal aliens resulting in serious bodily injury and placing lives in jeopardy – a total of four counts. 

According to KSAT, Covarrubias-Ponce helped to coordinate the smuggling of people from Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico to the U.S. The group was smuggled through Interstate 35 in Texas and the truck was eventually parked in the 9600 block of Quintana Road in San Antonio, where the migrants were left inside of the sweltering trailer. 47 adults and six children died as a result. 

Covarrubias-Ponce allegedly accompanied the truck as it traveled to San Antonio, exchanged the names of the migrants with other people involved in the smuggling, and orchestrated the “retrieval” of the semi truck before transferring it to the driver. 

The 47-year-old truck driver, Homero Zamorano Jr., has a case pending. Co-defendants Felipe Orduna-Torres, Luis Alberto Rivera-Leal, and Armando Gonzales-Ortega also have cases pending. Christian Martinez and Juan Francisco D’Luna Bilbao have already pleaded guilty to the same charges as Covarrubias-Ponce.

Covarrubias-Ponce faces up to life in prison.

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