A former fugitive who was illegally residing in Houston has been sentenced to three terms of life in prison after pleading guilty to engaging in an alien smuggling conspiracy that resulted in two deaths and kidnapping two women, one of whom was killed. One of the life sentences was ordered to run consecutively to the other two life terms imposed.
Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson of the Southern District of Texas made the announcement.
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 aliens for private financial gain resulting in death.
Today, U.S. District Judge John D. Rainey of the Southern District of Texas ordered that Aranda-Soto spend the rest of his life in federal prison. More than 20 victims and family members of victims traveled from Mexico and from various places all over 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.”
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.
Another victim, who was shot three times but survived after jumping out of a moving vehicle, was the only eyewitness to one of the brutal crimes and provided powerful testimony. She testified that she and the other woman were making plans to attempt to escape from the defendant the day he forced them into a car at gunpoint, and told the court that the woman’s last words were “tell my children I love them with all of my heart.”
After all of the victims spoke, Judge 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.
In his plea agreement, Aranda-Soto admitted that from 2010 until his arrest in 2012, he led an alien-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 aliens when it rolled over near Victoria, Texas. One victim died as a result of the accident, while another had been left behind in the brush and 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. Aranda-Soto admitted that he returned to Houston in 2012 and began to hold aliens hostage in Houston-area stash houses. According to admissions made in connection with the plea, Aranda-Soto planned to escape from Houston with two female employees after law enforcement rescued a group of aliens being held hostage and arrested several of Aranda-Soto’s employees in October 2012.
According to the plea agreement, while fleeing by car 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.
Law enforcement arrested Aranda-Soto a week later at yet another stash house, which was full of illegal aliens 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.
The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations, U.S. Border Patrol agents with the South Texas Campaign and South Texas Border Intelligence Center, Houston Police Department, Harris County Sheriff’s Office and the U.S. Marshals Service investigated the case. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Patti Hubert Booth and Casey N. MacDonald are prosecuting the case along with Trial Attorney Jeffrey Zick of the Criminal Division’s Capital Case Section.