LAREDO, TX (The San Antonio Express-News) – An immigrant smuggler who led police on a high-speed chase that injured several people in a small border community was sentenced to eight years in prison Wednesday.
Jovanni Rodarte, a 20-year-old resident of Rio Bravo, had pleaded guilty in December to one count of conspiring to transport immigrants, causing serious bodily injury. He was sentenced Wednesday in Laredo by U.S. District Judge Marina Garcia Marmolejo.
In October, Rodarte had picked up three immigrants from Mexico who had illegally crossed the river into the U.S. when Webb County sheriff’s deputies tried to pull the vehicle over, according to court records. Rodarte tried to escape, driving at about 100 mph on a road that connects the communities of Rio Bravo and El Cenizo near Laredo. The chase ended when his SUV hit a minivan, injuring three of its passengers. Rodarte and immigrants he was smuggling, one of whom was ejected from the vehicle, were also injured and hospitalized.
Along with prison time, the judge ordered Rodarte to pay nearly $193,000 in restitution.
“Criminals who illegally smuggle people into and throughout the country place personal profit ahead of public safety,” Shane Folden, special agent in charge of Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations San Antonio Field Office, said in a statement.