Man Sentenced in Deaths of Three Smuggled Chinese Migrants

San Diego–Neil Edwin Valera, a U.S. citizen who resided in Tijuana, was sentenced in federal court on March 15 to five years in prison in connection with the deaths of three Chinese migrants, including a mother and her 15-year-old son, who were found in the trunk of Valera’s BMW two days after he crossed into the United States through the San Ysidro Port of Entry in the same car.

Valera, a truck driver from El Paso, Texas, pleaded guilty in February 2020 to Encouraging Aliens to Enter Resulting in Death and Bringing in Aliens without Presentation for Financial Gain.

At the sentencing hearing today, U.S. District Judge Anthony Battaglia said: “There’s an inherent danger with putting people in the trunks and compartments of cars. It’s not just a fairy tale that people will get hurt or die – it really does happen.”

On August 11, 2019, at 4:54 p.m., San Diego police received an emergency 911 call from a person reporting a foul odor and blood dripping from a suspicious vehicle with Texas license plates parked near the 2100 block of Jaime Avenue in San Diego.

San Diego police officers discovered a 1999 silver BMW with a Texas license plate. The officers lifted the trunk and found what initially appeared to be two deceased Asian females. Homicide detectives found an additional victim, an Asian male, pressed up against the rear wall of the trunk. A witness said the car was first noticed two days earlier and no one was seen coming or going.

Video recordings show the same car crossing into the United States from Mexico on August 9, 2019, at the San Ysidro port of entry at 3:14 p.m. According to the complaint, the driver was Valera, the registered owner of the vehicle. Valera used his Sentri card to enter into the U.S. After that day, Valera only crossed into the United States on foot, through pedestrian lanes at the San Ysidro Port of Entry.