Smuggler in fatal Eagle crash sent to prison |

Smuggler in fatal Eagle crash sent to prison

Matt Zalaznick
Vail, CO Colorado

EAGLE , Colorado “A convicted human smuggler was sentenced Friday to 3 1/2 years in prison for driving a van that crashed near Eagle last summer, killing four illegal immigrants who were passengers.

Jose Benedicto Jose-Zacariaz, a 28-year-old illegal immigrant from Guatemala, began his prison term immediately after being sentenced by Federal Judge Wylie Y. Daniel for the transportation of illegal aliens within the United States resulting in death.

“Human-smugglers gamble with people’s lives and must be treated accordingly,” said U.S. Attorney Troy Eid, whose office prosecuted the case.

Jose-Zacariaz pleaded guilty on Feb. 5. According to his plea agreement with federal prosecutors:

Jose-Zacariaz was working at a car wash in Mesa, Ariz., when a customer offered him a better job and a place to live in Alabama. The customer than asked Jose-Zacariaz to drive illegal aliens to various destinations in the eastern United States.

Jose-Zacariaz left Mesa on July 14, driving a van containing nine citizens of Guatemala who had previously been smuggled into the U.S. from Mexico. The aliens got into the U.S. by spending three days walking through the desert.

There were not enough seats in the van, so some passengers had to sit on the floor or on the spare tire in the rear compartment.

Jose-Zacariaz was given some money for gas and a telephone number to call when he reached Alabama.

Two days later, while driving eastbound on I-70 near Eagle, Jose-Zacariaz’s van was hit from behind by a tanker truck and destroyed. Three passengers who weren’t wearing seat belts were thrown from the van and killed. A fourth passenger died later.

Jose-Zacariaz and the other passengers were all injured.

“Unfortunately, the fact that human smugglers have no regard for their passengers is routinely demonstrated again and again, and is especially apparent following their vehicle crashes,” said Jeffrey Copp, special agent in charge of the ICE Office of Investigations in Denver.

“However, in this case four people died, emphasizing how human smuggling organizations maximize their profits by routinely transporting aliens in crowded and unsafe vehicles and conditions, and with inexperienced drivers, said Copp, who oversees a ICE operations in Colorado, Montana, Utah and Wyoming.

The case was investigated by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and the Colorado State Patrol. The defendant was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Wyatt Angelo and Roxane Perruso.

Support Local Journalism

Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.

User Legend: iconModerator iconTrusted User