‘Coyote’ arrested in Northern California, pleads guilty to human trafficking
A 29-year-old Mexican national arrested last month in Yolo County has pleaded guilty in federal court to illegally transporting non-nationals without status to the United States, a US Department of Justice official said.
Mateo Gomez-Gonzalez entered a plea on Monday in the Robert T. Matsui U.S. Courthouse in Sacramento, the DOJ’s Eastern District headquarters in California, U.S. Attorney Phillip A. Talbert said in a press release.
According to court documents, on September 28, a concerned Sacramento resident called law enforcement to report that his relative and a friend were being held over a payment dispute in a human smuggling operation with the smuggler, commonly referred to as a “coyote,” Talbert said. .
The reporting party indicated that the driver of a vehicle involved in transporting Mexican citizens to the United States was threatening to drop the relative and family friend off at an unknown hideout rather than waiting family members if a additional payment was not made, it added.
Acting on the tip, Talbert noted, law enforcement officers encountered the vehicle at a gas station in Dunnigan, discovered four passengers in the vehicle who did not have legal status in the United States, and arrested Gomez-Gonzalez.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Audrey B. Hemesath and Denise Yasinow are pursuing the case, which stems from an investigation by Homeland Security Investigations, Talbert said in the prepared statement.
Gomez-Gonzalez, who remains in custody at the Sacramento County Jail, is scheduled to be sentenced Jan. 23 by U.S. District Judge Kimberly J. Mueller. He faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison for each person smuggled. The actual sentence, however, will be determined by the judge and federal sentencing guidelines, which take into account a number of variables, Talbert said.