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Smuggler imprisoned after woman left on the side of the road

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A 43-year-old non-U.S. citizen illegally residing in Mission has been sent to prison for conspiracy to commit hostage taking which resulted in death, announced U.S. Attorney Jennifer B. Lowery.

Nelson Bahena-Garcia pleaded guilty Nov. 2, 2021, admitting the victim died during the smuggling incident.

Today, U.S. District Judge Rainey ordered Bahena-Garcia to serve 252 months in federal prison. Not a U.S. citizen, he is expected to face removal proceedings following his imprisonment. At the hearing, the court heard additional evidence about how he operated an alien stash house using threats and intimidation and refused to allow the victim to be released for medical care during the smuggling attempt.

The investigation began after authorities had learned of a missing Honduran female. Her fiancé called authorities and informed them he had been unable to make payment for her release.

On May 28, 2018, authorities found her on a rural county road in Victoria County. She had been stripped nude and had what appeared to be trauma inflicted upon her body. The investigation revealed she had collapsed during the smuggling attempt and had to be carried. Even though she said, “please don’t leave me,” a companion heard Bahena-Garcia eventually provide instructions to leave her behind in the brush to die.

At the time of his plea, Bahena-Garcia admitted his driver had abandoned her by on the side of the highway.

Bahena-Garcia has been and will remain in custody pending transfer to a U.S. Bureau of prisons facility to be determined in the near future.

Homeland Security Investigations, Customs and Border Protection and the Victoria County Sheriff’ Office conducted the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Patti Booth prosecuted the case.

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