Trio of Hi-Line human smugglers sentenced, face deportation

(Havre Herald) Three Mexican citizens who admitted trying to smuggle a group of other Mexicans into the United States from a port of entry north of Cut Bank were sentenced last week to time served in prison.

U.S. District Court Judge Brian Morris of Great Falls turned over the three men to Immigration and Customs Enforcement to face deportation proceedings.

Omero Banderas-Rodriguez, Samuel Velasco-Tovar, and Alberto Guillen-Gordillo pleaded guilty in February to the scheme to smuggle 19 Mexicans from Canada into the United States.

A fourth Mexican national, Josue Bermudez-Lopez, also was charged with taking part in the operation. He received a sentence of four months in federal prison in February.

Border Patrol agents charged that on Nov. 17, 2019, at about 11:45 p.m., they stopped a Chevrolet Suburban on a road south of the Canadian border in a remote part of Glacier County. Nine passengers admitted to being in the United States illegally.

Officers then stopped a second vehicle nearby, a Chevrolet Tahoe. Eight people scattered into the darkness, officers said, but later were apprehended.

Those smuggled into the country told Border Patrol agents and Glacier County sheriff’s deputies that Velasco-Tovar had acted as a foot guide to get them through a remote part of the border. The other two were waiting to pick them up in the vehicles.

Four of the people told authorities they had paid between $4,000 and $4,750 to the defendants so they could get into the United States.

Border Patrol officials did not say how those smuggled in had gotten to Canada.

Guillen-Gordillo told agents he was to get $2,000 for driving those smuggled in to Utah.

The men apparently used a Cut Bank hotel as their base of operations. Border Patrol officials praised hotel workers for noticing something suspicious about their activity.

U.S. Attorney for Montana Kurt Alme said the federal crackdown on illegal smuggling will continue.

“Human smuggling across the Canadian border is dangerous both to those who are being smuggled and to Montanans who may cross paths with the smugglers,” Alme said.

“Those who prey on the aspirations of those from other counties wanting a better life for themselves, putting them and Montanas at risk, will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law,” Alme said.