CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – The lead defendant convicted for his role in the smuggling conspiracy that left six people dead in June 2019 has been ordered to federal prison, announced U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Patrick.
Mexican citizen Ivan Dario Puga-Moreno, 31, pleaded guilty Feb. 2 to conspiracy to transport undocumented aliens into the United States causing death or serious bodily injury.
Today, U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos upwardly departed from the U.S. Sentencing guidelines and ordered him to serve a total of 120 months in prison. Not a U.S. citizen, he is expected to face removal proceedings following the term of imprisonment. At the hearing, the court heard Puga-Moreno was the driver of the vehicle that caused the death of six and serious bodily injury of 10 more. After the crash, Puga-Moreno refused to call 911 for assistance. Instead, he fled the scene.
On June 5, 2019, authorities discovered a wrecked Chevrolet Suburban in a ditch in Robstown. Six people were found deceased at the scene with 10 more requiring hospitalization due to their significant injuries. Puga-Moreno had been attempting to smuggle a total of 18 undocumented immigrants with brush guide Agustin Gutierrez-Gonzalez who was from his hometown in Mexico. Further investigation revealed he had fled the scene of the accident with the assistance of Gutierrez-Gonzalez, 33, Elena Ruiz, 35, of Corpus Christi, and Mayra Chaver, 32, of Honduras.
At the time of his plea, Puga-Moreno admitted he was driving the vehicle and was evading police. He fled to Houston in an attempt to avoid arrest, but was subsequently apprehended June 6
Ruiz, Chaver and Gutierrez-Gonzalez also pleaded guilty, admitting they helped Puga-Moreno flee and evade arrest after the crash. They are set for sentencing at a later date.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations, Border Patrol, Corpus Christi Police Department and Nueces County Sherriff’s Office conducted the investigation.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeremy Carl Fugate is prosecuting the case.