US Guatemala investigation leads to arrest of 10 people smugglers linked to killing of 19 migrants


An investigation by the US Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the HSI Transnational Criminal Investigative Unit (TCIU), the Guatemalan National Police (PNC) and the Guatemalan Illegal Migrant Trafficking Prosecutor’s Office led to the arrests of 10 Guatemalan nationals who were tied to the January 2021 killings of 19 foreigners in a people smuggling operation in Tamaulipas, Mexico.

“This joint transnational operation against a major human smuggling organization demonstrates the importance of both governments working together to apprehend those responsible and hold them accountable for the transport of these non-citizens en route to the United States that ultimately led to their deaths pull,” said HSI acting regional attaché for the North Triangle Carlos Gamarra. “Hopefully the results of these high-level arrests can bring some justice to the victims’ families.”

On January 28, the HSI Guatemala City, together with the HSI TCIU, the Guatemalan military, the Guatemalan National Police (PNC) Special Operations Group and the Guatemalan Illicit Trafficking Prosecutor, executed 19 search warrants and arrested 10 Guatemalan nationals for violations of related foreign laws with people smuggling, money laundering and obstruction of justice. The arrests were part of a joint investigation by HSI Guatemala City and Mexico City, TCIU and counterparts from the Guatemalan government into the Coronado/Miranda people smuggling organization, which operates out of the department of San Marcos, Guatemala.

This case was initiated by an event in January 2021 in which 19 foreign nationals were murdered in a human smuggling operation in Tamaulipas, Mexico, while attempting to reach the United States. Sixteen of those killed were Guatemalan nationals. About $203,000 in foreign and US currency, five vehicles, sixty-one illegal gaming machines, a firearm, ammunition and various electronic devices were seized.

ICE encourages anyone who suspects human smuggling to report it to local law enforcement. Tips can also be submitted anonymously to ICE online at or by calling 866-347-2423.

HSI is a directorate of ICE and the principal investigative arm of the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) responsible for investigating cross-border crime and threats, particularly criminal organizations that exploit the global infrastructure through which international trade, travel, and finance flow move. HSI’s 10,400+ employees are made up of more than 7,100 special agents deployed in 220 cities across the United States and 80 overseas locations in 53 countries. HSI’s international presence represents DHS’s largest investigative law enforcement presence abroad and one of the largest international presences in U.S. law enforcement.

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