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Mexican nationals plead guilty to alien smuggling

June 20, 2002

charges

By MARIO RENTERÍA

Staff Writer

SAN DIEGO — Two Mexican nationals were sentenced by a federal court here Tuesday after they pleaded guilty to felony alien smuggling resulting in two deaths in a case that stemmed from a smuggling operation in the Imperial Valley.

Martin Ozuna Hernandez, 32, and Leopoldo Perez Martinez, 48, were sentenced to jail terms of 46 months for Ozuna and 37 months for Perez for a smuggling incident in which two immigrants died.

The incident occurred July 10 about 13 miles west of Calexico. According to earlier reports, Perez and Ozuna were serving as guides to a group of 16 immigrants.

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Two of those immigrants, a man and a woman, became ill and could no longer continue. The group left the two and the woman's brother behind.

The woman's brother went in search for help. U.S. Border Patrol agents, after receiving information on the two ill immigrants, responded to the area where they had been left.

They found the two immigrants, who had already died, about 2 p.m. The brother later identified the two bodies found as being his sister and the other man that were left behind.

Around 5 p.m., a California Highway Patrol officer stopped a van with 11 occupants. The driver was later identified as Osuna.

In earlier reports, the immigrants reportedly identified Osuna as the guide who had abandoned the two immigrants. The brother of the woman who died also reportedly identified Osuna.

Perez, was also identified by members of the group but he was not found with them. Perez worked with Osuna in bringing the group across the border. Perez, who had fled to Mexicali, turned himself into U.S. authorities.

>> Staff Writer Mario Rentería can be reached at 337-3441.

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