Operators Of Large Human Smuggling Organization Get Prison Sentences

(Photo by Jenn Vargas/Creative Commons)

Two coordinators have been sentenced for organizing and participating in the smuggling of several hundred people.

Derly Crescencio Medina, 27, McAllen, and Jessica Dinora Pena-Rodriguez, 48, Tamaulipas, Mexico, pleaded guilty May 23 and May 30, respectively.  

Chief U.S. District Judge Randy Crane ordered Medina to serve a term of 108 months in prison to be immediately followed by three years of supervised release. Pena-Rodriguez received a 78-month-term of imprisonment. Not a U.S. citizen, she is expected to face removal proceedings following her sentence. In imposing the prison terms, Judge Crane noted that it was clear they were co-leaders and organizers for a long period of time.

Both acted a facilitators for the organization from at least August 2021 to their arrest in February 2023.

The investigation revealed Medina and Pena organized and participated in smuggling several hundred people during that time. The duo controlled the entire breadth of the smuggling operation – from posting smuggling advertisements on social media to coordinating their crossings of the Rio Grande and transportation to stash houses in the McAllen area to arranging transportation around immigration checkpoints deeper into the United States.

The duo also handled large amounts of human smuggling payments. They received tens of thousands of dollars in smuggling fees from smuggled undocumented aliens and wired significant sums to smuggling associates in Mexico.

Pena and Medina also harbored undocumented aliens at their residence awaiting transport further into the United States. Medina even transported aliens himself. In one instance in December 2021, law enforcement arrested him near the Rio Grande transporting seven undocumented aliens in his vehicle. Medina provided a false Mexican identity and avoided prosecution at that time by allowing himself to be wrongly removed to Mexico. He re-entered the United States using his true identity hours later.

The Pena-Medina network included numerous other co-conspirators, including nine others who have also been successfully investigated and prosecuted.