McAllen, Tamaulipas human smugglers sentenced to prison

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A McAllen man and Tamaulipas woman were sentenced to prison for organizing and participating in the smuggling of several hundred people, according to the United States Attorney’s Office Southern District of Texas.

McAllen resident Derly Crescencio Medina, 27, and 48-year-old Jessica Dinora Pena-Rodriguez of Tamaulipas, Mexico, pleaded guilty May 23 and May 30, respectively.

Medina received nine years in prison while Pena-Rodriguez got more than six years.

“Chief U.S. District Judge Randy Crane ordered Medina to serve a term of 108 months in prison to be immediately followed by three years of supervised release,” a USAO news release said. “Pena-Rodriguez received a 78-month-term of imprisonment.”

Because Pena-Rodriguez isn’t a U.S. citizen, she is expected to face removal proceedings following her sentence.

When imposing the prison terms, Judge Crane noted that both Medina and Pena-Rodriguez were co-leaders and organizers for a long period of time. The two acted as facilitators for the organization from August 2021 up until their arrest in February.

At 1:10 p.m. on May 23, 2022, a driver of a vehicle containing eight people illegally present in the country was arrested after attempting to flee law enforcement.

The driver said he was told to meet smuggling coordinators at a Tigre Exxon gas station south of Mission. They showed him a drone feed of an area near the Rio Grande and provided instructions.

He positively identified Pena-Rodriguez and Medina as the two coordinators he met at the gas station and coordinated the smuggling.

The two presented themselves as a couple on their social media as recently as Feb. 16.

An investigation revealed that Medina and Pena-Rodriguez organized and participated in smuggling several hundred people and controlled the entire extent of the smuggling operation.

They would advertise on social media, coordinate crossings of the Rio Grande and transportation to stash houses in the McAllen area and around immigration checkpoints.

Medina would also transport people himself. In one instance, in December 2021, Medina was arrested near the Rio Grande for smuggling people, but was able to avoid prosecution by providing a false Mexican identity.

He was wrongfully removed to Mexico and re-entered the U.S. using his true identity hours later.

“The Pena-Medina network included numerous other co-conspirators, including nine others who have also been successfully investigated and prosecuted,” the release said.