Driver who Fled Border Patrol and Crashed While Transporting Unauthorized Immigrants Sentenced to 48 Months in Prison
Assistant U.S. Attorney Meghan Heesch (619) 546-9442
NEWS RELEASE SUMMARY – August 14, 2017
SAN DIEGO – Miguel Angel Tejada-Loaiza was sentenced in federal court today to 48 months in prison for transporting unauthorized immigrants and in the process fleeing U.S. Border Patrol Agents and crashing his vehicle into a guard rail.
Tejada-Loaiza, himself a Mexican citizen without status in the United States, drove six other unauthorized immigrants near the Otay Mesa Port of Entry after the group had unlawfully entered the United States. Two passengers were ejected from the vehicle and were hospitalized for several weeks with serious injuries.
On April 23, 2017, U.S. Border Patrol Agents spotted a Ford Expedition vehicle parked in an area where a seismic intrusion device had detected movement. An agent heard yelling coming from the vehicle and saw the driver, Tejada-Loaiza, signaling for people to enter the vehicle. Agents followed the Expedition in a marked Border Patrol unit and tried to pull the vehicle over. Tejada-Loaiza abruptly turned onto a north-bound road and sped up, failing to yield to the agents. Tejada-Loaiza reached speeds of approximately 75 miles per hour.
Tejada-Loaiza suddenly made a sharp turn, colliding with the end of the guardrail. The vehicle slid down an embankment, ejecting two passengers. One suffered major injuries that required emergency back surgery; he was on a ventilator in the hospital for over three weeks. The other was an unaccompanied minor who suffered lacerations on his face and body.
Tejada-Loaiza pleaded guilty to Illegal Transportation of Aliens for Financial Gain on May 23, 2017. In his plea, he acknowledged he knew he was in violation of immigration laws when he transported the six unauthorized immigrants in the vehicle. Tejada-Loaiza admitted the individuals he transported were paying others as much as $5,000 to be smuggled into the United States and transported illegally.
At sentencing, U.S. District Judge Larry A. Burns focused on the “callous” nature of Tejada-Loaiza’s decisions and noted that of the alien smuggling cases he has seen over the years, “this case is at the very aggravated end of the spectrum.”
“Smuggling endangers not only those being transported illegally, but the general motoring public,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Alana W. Robinson. “Smugglers commodify human beings, prioritizing profits over public safety. Our office will vigorously prosecute individuals who capitalize on the illegal smuggling of people into and within the United States.”
“The circumstances surrounding this case are tragic, and once again demonstrate the disregard for human life displayed by these smugglers,” said Chief Patrol Agent Richard A. Barlow, U.S. Border Patrol. “We are grateful to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for their hard work and dedication to punish the individuals who endanger the lives of so many people.”
DEFENDANT Case Number: 17CR1298-LAB
Miguel Angel Tejada-Loaiza Age: 21 Mazatlan, Sinaloa, Mexico
SUMMARY OF CHARGE
Illegal Transportation of Aliens for Financial Gain – Title 8, United States Code, Section 1324(a)(1)(A)(ii); Maximum Penalty: 10 years in prison.
U.S. Border Patrol
Department of Justice
Office of the U.S. Attorney
Southern District of California