Austin man sentenced to prison for smuggling attempt that resulted in deaths

SAN ANTONIO (KTSA News) — An Austin man is facing 16 years in prison after he was convicted of causing a crash that killed two illegal immigrants he was smuggling into the United States.

According to court documents, on April 24, 2022, Joseph Alex Hernandez, 27, sped away from Medina County Sheriff’s deputies and tried to evade arrest during a traffic stop. Investigators say Hernandez reached speeds between 90 and 100 mph along the highway and access road, crossing the steep grassy median several times, and running a red traffic light. A rear tire on his vehicle eventually gave out, and Hernandez lost control, resulting in the truck crashing after flipping multiple times in the grassy median.

Hernandez had been transporting 13 illegal immigrants during the chase, including eight who were laying down in the covered truck bed. Three of the passengers were airlifted from the scene and the rest were taken via ambulance to local hospitals. While providing medical treatment, Emergency Medical Services personnel discovered Hernandez was carrying a loaded pistol. Several days later, two of the smuggled migrants died in the hospital from their injuries.

Hernandez was charged with conspiracy to transport illegal aliens resulting in death, transportation of illegal aliens resulting in death, and being felon in possession. He pleaded guilty Oct. 23, 2023 to the conspiracy and firearm charges.

“This case is another unfortunate and tragic example of how dangerous smuggling humans across the border has become,” said U.S. Attorney Jaime Esparza for the Western District of Texas. “The defendant in this case put thirteen lives at risk in an attempt to evade law enforcement. Sadly, his actions led to two of those individuals paying the ultimate price.”

Hernandez was sentenced in San Antonio federal court to 192 months in prison for one count of conspiracy to transport aliens resulting in death and 120 months for one count of being a felon in possession of a firearm. The two sentences will run concurrently.

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