A Mexican national who prosecutors say worked as a "coyote," has been sentenced to two-and-a-half years in federal prison and told to never come back to the United States after he was found responsible for a fatal van rollover in 2005 that killed two of 14 illegal immigrants being smuggled into the country.
Raul Ramirez-Becerra, who also goes by the name Ramses Castellano-Lin, said he never wanted anything bad to happen. "I never wanted to hurt anyone," Becerra said through a Spanish interpreter to U.S. District Judge Dee Benson, adding he worked to smuggle immigrants out of financial need.
Federal prosecutors say Becerra was paid by the group of illegal immigrants to smuggle them into the country. On Oct. 11, 2005 Becerra had Neo Luna-Escanola drive the van when the van rolled, killing two and injuring several others on U.S. 191 near Moab.
After the crash, Becerra walked away from a Moab-area hospital but was later arrested by federal agents in Phoenix in July of this year.
Escanola was sentenced to two years in federal prison for falling asleep and causing the accident. In court Thursday, Benson said Becerra shared more of the blame for running the smuggling operation and sentenced him to 30 months in prison.
Benson also ordered that Becerra never illegally re-enter the U.S. and said he will have no prospect of ever entering the country legally. Benson also ordered Becerra to pay $202,883 in restitution for the medical costs incurred by several hospitals in treating the accident victims."I think this is a tragedy all the way around," Benson said.