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Last defendant in South Texas human smuggling case heads to court

Aug. 26, 2014 at 5:42 p.m.


A 34-year-old man who officials say led a human smuggling group that was involved in a deadly crash near Victoria in 2010 will be in Corpus Christi federal court Wednesday.

Last week, a 22-count indictment was returned on Noe Aranda-Soto, also known as "El Diablo," who was living in the country illegally.

He is charged with murder, hostage taking, harboring and transporting undocumented immigrants and illegally entering the U.S. after being previously deported, among other things.

Aranda-Soto was originally charged in 2010 with eight counts related to an alien transporting conspiracy following an Aug. 1, 2010, rollover wreck near Victoria.

Officials say he was in charge of a crew that transported people suspected of entering the country illegally from areas near the Falfurrias and Sarita checkpoints to stash houses in Houston.

On Aug. 1, 2010, his brother was driving a vehicle loaded with undocumented immigrants that crashed near Victoria. One died as a result of a wreck while another left behind in the brush died of exposure and dehydration.

A third victim was in a coma for nearly a year and sustained permanent injuries, according to court documents.

Aranda-Soto was stopped by law enforcement a few days after the crash but escaped.

He is also charged in the driving death of a woman who worked for him and injuring another.

With the exception of Aranda-Soto, all of those charged in relation to the 2010 and 2012 criminal activity have all been convicted.

If convicted, Aranda-Soto faces varying prison terms up to a possible death sentence.

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