A federal judge sentenced a former fugitive and Mexican national who was illegally residing in Houston to three life prison sentences after pleading guilty to conspiring to smuggle illegal immigrants that resulted in two deaths and kidnapping two women, one of whom was killed, officials announced this week.
One of the life sentences was ordered to run consecutively to the other two life terms, officials said.
Noe Aranda-Soto, aka Diablo, 36, of San Carlos, Michoacan, Mexico, pleaded guilty on May 31, 2016, to kidnapping resulting in death, use of a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence resulting in death and conspiracy to transport illegal immigrants for private financial gain resulting in death.
More than 20 victims and family members of victims traveled from Mexico and from various places throughout the United States to attend the sentencing hearing, one of whom was the 18-year-old son of one of the deceased female victims, who described the impact of the crime on their family.
The woman’s father also addressed Aranda-Soto and said, “I pray God forgives you, because we never will.”
In his plea agreement, Aranda-Soto admitted that from 2010 until his arrest in 2012, he led an illegal immigrant-smuggling and hostage-taking organization that transported aliens from areas near the south-Texas checkpoints to local stash houses in Houston and to points north.
On Aug. 1, 2010, his brother was driving a vehicle loaded with illegal immigrants when it rolled over near Victoria, Texas.
One victim died as a result of the accident, while another victim who had been left behind in the brush died of exposure and dehydration.
A third victim was in a coma for nearly a year and now suffers from permanent injuries, according to the plea.
Law enforcement stopped Aranda-Soto a few days later, but he fled.
Still a fugitive on the 2010 charges, Aranda-Soto admitted he returned to Houston in 2012 and began to hold illegal immigrants hostage in Houston-area stash houses.
After law enforcement rescued a group of illegal immigrants being held hostage and arrested several of Aranda-Soto’s employees from one of the locations in October 2012, Aranda-Soto planned to escape from Houston with two female employees, according to the evidence.
While on Interstate 10 near Katy, Texas, Aranda-Soto became agitated and shot both the driver and the other female passenger multiple times. The injured driver jumped from the moving car and survived.
Aranda-Soto then purposefully drove the car erratically, causing the other woman to be ejected from the moving vehicle onto the highway where she was subsequently run over by multiple other vehicles and killed, according to admissions in the plea agreement.
Fourteen victims addressed the court, most of whom have sustained some type of permanent injuries as a result of the defendant’s criminal conduct.
Additionally, family members of two of the three victims who were killed as a result of the offenses gave emotional testimony describing the impact of the loss on their family.
After all of the victims spoke, Judge John D. Rainey asked the defendant if he wished to make a statement.
Aranda-Soto did not apologize nor make any comments to the court or the victims.
Law enforcement arrested Aranda-Soto a week later at yet another stash house, which was full of illegal immigrants whom Aranda-Soto and his co-conspirators were holding hostage.
With Aranda-Soto’s plea, all of those charged in relation to the 2010 and 2012 criminal activity have now been convicted.
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