Armando Gael-Galicia aka Artemio Diego Andres Gonzalez and Luis Moreno-Gonzalez, 26, and Jose Diego Tercero-Gonzalez, 22, both Guatemalans residing in Texas, pleaded guilty in federal court in the Western District of Texas to conspiracy to transport and harboring aliens for financial gain, resulting in death on Thursday. They will face a statutory maximum penalty of life imprisonment during their sentencing. 

In early May 2021, the body of a young indigenous Guatemalan woman was found in a remote area outside of Odessa, Texas. Then, on Aug. 23, 2021, Gael-Galicia and Tercero-Gonzalez were apprehended in or near 910 Coyochic Avenue in Odessa, where the victim was taken and killed in a trailer. Inside the trailer were several migrants who entered the country illegally, detailed ledgers, and more than 100 cell phones. In accordance with their guilty pleas, the defendants confessed they operated a prolific alien smuggling organization and that they were responsible for the transit of the migrant who died.

According to a statement by the Department of Justice the investigation connects to the recent allegation and arrests of Felipe Diego Alonzo aka Siete, 38; Nesly Norberto Martinez Gomez aka Canche, 37; Lopez Mateo Mateo aka Bud Light, 42; and Juan Gutierrez Castro aka Andres, 45; in Guatemala in August. They allegedly conspired with other smugglers to enable the travel of large numbers of migrants from Guatemala through Mexico, and to the United States, charging the migrants and their families about $10,000 to $12,000 for the dangerous journey. 

In addition to the prolific smuggling of migrants to the United States, the human traffickers targeted in the August operation were allegedly responsible for the demise of the same indigenous Guatemalan woman transported by Gael-Galicia and Tercero-Gonzalez. Guatemalan police arrested Diego Alonzo, Martinez Gomez, Mateo Mateo, and Gutierrez Castro pursuant to recommendations for their extradition by the United States, according to KLTV

“Joint Task Force Alpha (JTFA) was created to investigate and prosecute the international networks responsible for dangerous human smuggling activities that exploit and victimize migrants,” said Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite, Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. “Through extensive coordination with our U.S. Attorney’s Office and law enforcement partners, yesterday’s guilty pleas emphasize JTFA’s comprehensive mission to leave no stone unturned in its efforts to hold accountable all those who treat human life like a commodity.

Fox News reported, "Through extensive coordination with our U.S. Attorney’s Office and law enforcement partners, yesterday’s guilty pleas emphasize JTFA’s comprehensive mission to leave no stone unturned in its efforts to hold accountable all those who treat human life like a commodity," Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite, Jr. of the DOJ's Criminal Division said. 

The case is handled by JTFA Co-Director James Hepburn of HRSP and Assistant U.S. Attorneys John Fedock and Jose Luis Acosta for the Western District of Texas and JTFA, with assistance from HRSP Historian/Latin America Specialist Joanna Crandall and Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section Trial Attorney Daria Andryushchenko. The DOJ’s Office of International Affairs and Office of Overseas Prosecutorial Development, Assistance, and Training provided significant assistance.

Immigrants with children cross Rio Grande River Randall's Island is about to open Wednesday to be a temporary shelter for migrants. Photo by Andrew Lichtenstein/Corbis via Getty Images