A Mexican citizen who pleaded guilty April 8 to transporting 12 illegal aliens for profit was sentenced to 16 months in prison July 14 in U. S. District Court in Springfield.
Yovani Diaz-Cruz, through an interpreter, was told his 18-month sentence will be followed by three years of supervised probation, unless he is deported. If he is deported, the judge told him, he is not to come back here illegally.
The Joplin Police Department arrested Diaz-Cruz March 12 and a federal grand jury indicted him later that month. He was arrested after JPD officers came across a 1995 GMC Safari Van parked at the corner of Main and F with Diaz-Cruz in the driver's seat. Twelve other Hispanic men were found hiding under a nearby bridge. Believing them to be undocumented aliens, Joplin Police called the U. S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement office in Springfield. All 12 men admitted to being Mexican citizens illegally in this country, according to court documents.
"They claim to have paid between 1,000 and 2,000 dollars for transportation from Phoenix, Ariz., to Georgia or Kentucky," Special Agent James Webb said in an affidavit filed in U. S. District Court. "Three of the 12 claimed to have paid 5,500 pesos as their fee for transportation. The group identified (Diaz) as the driver of the vehicle."A check with the FBI database determined that Diaz had been deported from this country twice, on March 10, 2003, and April 20, 2003, both times from Nogales, Ariz.