The 24th time is the charm. After a lengthy rap sheet stretching back to 1999, the smuggler will finally be put behind bars.
Efrain Delgado-Rosales was sentenced by a San Diego court to five years in prison for smuggling Mexican citizens across the U.S. border for financial gain, NBC San Diego reported.
"The sentence of Delgado-Rosales sends a stern message to those who use dangerous means to smuggle individuals into this country for profit," said Chief Agent Richard A. Barlow.
He was arrested a record 24 times, but Efrain, 35, proved something of a boomerang to U.S. officials. Each time he was arrested, he was deported back to Mexico, but turned up again and again hiking through the Otay Mountains with undocumented people.
Over the years, Delgado-Rosales was caught with illegal aliens 23 of the 24 times he was arrested, The San Diego Tribune added.
He was first arrested on July 19, 1999. After that, most of the 24 times the authorities caught up with him, he was accompanied by at least two and as many as 46 illegal immigrants following in his wake, Fox News reported.
In 2003, the smuggler was arrested in Los Angeles after being found with 61 immigrants.He found himself arrested once again in November, and that's the one that finally stuck.
In each of the 24 times he was arrested, the story of how he came to be in the wilderness of Southern California followed a similar pattern. The stories of the men whose testimony finally landed him in prison, and one that emerged from the survivor of another incident, are remarkably similar.
As to the latest incident, immigrants most recently found with him told U.S. officials that the smuggler picked them up at a Tijuana stash house. He walked them right up to the fence and then told them to cool their heels for a while. They obeyed and ended up stranded for hours.
During that time, the men were robbed of thousands of dollars and some of their cell phones. Each man and their families promised Delgado-Rosales $5,000 for his smuggling services, for a total of $20,000 for the trip.
When they told the smuggler about the robbery, he didn't seem to care, nor did he seem shocked. They began to suspect that he had arranged the crime.
After this setback, he led the illegal aliens over the fence and into the mountains, acting as their foot guide through the southern California wilderness. But he kept far ahead of the others; three men fell behind, and the smuggler only turned back when the only one who could keep up begged him to.They hiked through the mountains for a day before Border Patrol found the group one mile north of the border and three miles from a Port of Entry. All five men, including the smuggler, were taken into custody, marking Efrain's 24th time to be blessed with the honor.
The incident was remarkably similar to one in 2014, also in the Otay Mountains. In this case, one of the men the smuggler guided into the U.S., Jose de Jesus Hernandez-Adono, died. His body was found by Border Patrol in September of that year.
Witnesses from that expedition fingered Delgado-Rosales as their guide. The immigrants said they barely survived the trek.
After transporting dozens of illegal immigrants across the border and finding himself in U.S. custody 24 times, Efrain will finally see the inside of a jail cell.
After 24 times they apparently let Efain apparently slip through their fingers, officials are declaring his final arrest a victory, and a warning.
"This case serves as an example of the extreme dangers associated with crossing illegally into the United States," said U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy. "Smuggling activities are run by criminal organizations that have little concern over the welfare of their charges. Our office will aggressively prosecute those who smuggle illegal aliens into the United States for financial gain, place those in their company in grave danger and needlessly cause deaths."
[Photo By Sherry V Smith/Shutterstock]