AUGUSTA, GA – A previously removed Mexican national, recently sentenced to time served and released from state custody on traffic charges after a fatal vehicle crash into the Augusta Canal, has been indicted on a federal charge of illegally re-entering the United States prior to that fatal crash.
In an indictment filed Friday, Nov. 9, Eduardo Gonzalez-Frias, 29, was charged in U.S. District Court with illegal reentry after removal/deportation, said Bobby L. Christine, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Georgia. Immigration and Customs Enforcement took Gonzalez-Frias into custody upon his release from the Richmond County Detention Center.
Gonzalez-Frias initially was charged with vehicular homicide, driving under the influence and other violations after a crash in May 2017 in which his vehicle struck a guardrail on Interstate 20 and flipped into the Augusta Canal. Another occupant, Michael Botello, was found dead inside the submerged vehicle. After the charge of vehicular homicide was withdrawn when state prosecutors said they couldn’t prove Gonzalez-Frias was driving the vehicle, Gonzalez-Frias pled guilty to vehicle registration infractions and was released from jail after having served 16 months. Gonzalez-Frias still faces state prosecution for another DUI arrest that occurred a month before the fatal crash.
Gonzalez-Frias had been removed to Mexico in 2011 after having been found to be inadmissible to the United States due to falsely representing himself as a U.S. citizen. His federal indictment charges him with the additional crime of illegal re-entry after that removal.
“Our office is committed to ensuring that those who enter the United States illegally and commit additional crimes while here will be caught and punished to the fullest extent of the law,” said Bobby L. Christine, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Georgia. “There will be zero tolerance for those who break the law to get here, especially when they further endanger our citizens with reckless or violent conduct.”
Gonzalez-Frias was one of eight defendants for whom federal indictments for illegal immigration charges were returned this week. Southern District of Georgia prosecutors indicted just four immigration cases in 2016, and in less than two years since then, that number has skyrocketed by 2,600 percent with more than 100 cases prosecuted.