Five Years for Alien Smuggling, Ramming Coast Guard Vessel

by U.S. Attorney’s Office, Southern District of California
SAN DIEGO – Mexican national, Jesus Jeovanny Alcaraz-Valdez was sentenced in federal court Wednesday to 60 months in prison for bringing in nearly a dozen undocumented migrants for financial gain and ramming a Coast Guard vessel in an attempt to escape law enforcement.

At the sentencing hearing, U.S. District Judge Jinsook Ohta described Alcaraz’s actions as “extremely reckless and extremely troubling” and emphasized the danger to human life.

During the early morning hours of December 17, 2022, Alcaraz shuttled an estimated 12 undocumented migrants from Mexico across the maritime boundary line to the vicinity of the Hotel Del Coronado in Coronado, California. Before reaching shore, Alcaraz instructed the individuals to remove lifejackets and enter waist-deep surf, even though some could not swim. Eight individuals were apprehended by U.S. Border Patrol agents while four persons were assessed to have absconded. The individuals from Mexico and Guatemala were paying between $13,000 and $24,000 to be smuggled into the United States illegally.

The U.S. Coast Guard Joint Harbor Operations Center observed Alcaraz complete the drop-off near Coronado and return to sea on a southerly course toward Mexico. Responding to the event, a U.S. Coast Guard vessel patrolling in the area attempted to compel Alcaraz—the sole operator of the lights-out, panga-style vessel operating at 30-40 knots—to stop. Alcaraz repeatedly ignored the orders of the Coast Guard. Ultimately, after a brief respite from chase while Alcaraz switched fuel barrels, Alcaraz increased speed and steered directly toward the Coast Guard vessel, ramming them twice with his vessel’s pointed bow.

The first ramming hit the middle of the Coast Guard vessel, while the second caused the forward starboard window of the Coast Guard vessel to shatter to pieces and nearly hit a Coast Guard officer positioned in the co-pilot’s seat. After the ramming, the Coast Guard fired two shots into the panga’s outboard engine, successfully disabling it. All four law enforcement officers on board sustained minor neck and back injuries as a result of the ramming and were treated by medical personnel once safely ashore.

Alcaraz was arrested on December 17, 2022 and indicted in January 2023. He pleaded guilty to 12 counts in March 2023.

“Maritime smuggling is extremely dangerous and puts the lives of the passengers being smuggled, and the law enforcement officers safeguarding our borders, at serious risk,” said U.S. Attorney Randy Grossman. “This defendant not only endangered the individuals he transported by operating an overloaded panga in the dark with no navigation lights, but he double downed on his bad decision-making when he intentionally harmed members of our Coast Guard. The U.S. Attorney’s Office will continue our efforts to relentlessly pursue justice against smugglers who have no regard for human life and who assault our law enforcement agency partners.” Grossman thanked the prosecution team and the combined efforts of the Marine Task Force, Homeland Security Investigations, and Coast Guard Investigative Service for their excellent work on this case.

“Our highest concern during any mission is the safety of our Coast Guard members,” said Rear Admiral Andrew Sugimoto, Commander, Coast Guard District 11. “When their safety becomes threatened, it becomes clear that these smugglers are operating with a disregard for life. As a service, we will continue to put people first and hold those individuals accountable who continue to jeopardize human life.”

For more news follow us on Twitter and Facebook. For recent photographs follow us on Flickr.

If you have any problems viewing this article, please report it here.