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TUCSON A 28-year-old was sentenced by a United States District judge to 10 years in prison after leading a group of Mexican nationals through the Arizona border, resulting in the death of a 23-year-old woman.

Jesus Ernesto Dessens-Romero, 28, of Agua Prieta, Sonora, Mexico, was found guilty by a jury of multiple smuggling offenses, including Conspiracy to Transport and Transportation of Illegal Aliens for Profit, according to a news release from the United States Attorney’s Office, District of Arizona. The jury also found that Dessens-Romero placed human life in jeopardy during and in relation to his alien smuggling offenses.

Dessens-Romero was the foot guide for Mexican nationals who illegally crossed into the United States in February of 2021. The group included three sisters, ages 23, 20, and 17, and their family friend. He led the group through the rugged and remote Huachuca Mountains in Southern Arizona. The group had limited food and water while traveling through serious weather conditions including cold and snow.

During their journey, the 23-year-old showed signs of serious physical distress, holding the group up. Dessens-Romero convinced the group to leave her near a well-traveled roadway. He did not call emergency services and proceeded to lead the rest of the group to Sierra Vista, Arizona.

Human smugglers profit from the exploitation of migrants and routinely expose them to violence, injury, and death, Attorney General Merrick B. Garland said in the news release. Todays sentence shows the Justice Department will continue to hold accountable these smugglers and the criminal networks that abuse, exploit, or endanger migrants.

The family of the woman left behind contacted authorities to report a missing person. Despite extensive search efforts by United States Border Patrol, military officials from Fort Huachuca, Cochise County Sheriffs Department, and Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), she was not located On November 20, 2021, members of SOS Bsqueda y Rescate located skeletal remains in an isolated area of the Huachuca Mountains. Dental records confirmed that the remains belonged to the missing 23-year-old sister.

Dessens-Romero continued to smuggle undocumented non-citizens within the United States until June of 2021. Dessens-Romero was arrested on June 30, 2021, by Tennessee Highway Patrol while transporting two individuals.

Alien smugglers care only about the money to be made and not about the human beings whose lives they endanger, U.S. Attorney Gary Restaino said in the news release. Unfortunately, one young womans desire for a better life in the United States cost her her life due to the greed and recklessness of Dessens-Romero.”