First Responders

Prosecutors: Smuggler Threatened To Murder Federal Agent

September 20, 2022Carl Prine
US Border Patrol say Jesus Alberto Ibarra-Barraza vowed to kill a federal agent on March 17, 2022, a day after he was detained for allegedly smuggling Guatemalans into the US near Arivaca, Arizona.

US Border Patrol say Jesus Alberto Ibarra-Barraza vowed to kill a federal agent on March 17, 2022, a day after he was detained for allegedly smuggling Guatemalans into the US near Arivaca, Arizona.

A suspected smuggler vowed to murder a federal agent, according to a grand jury indictment unsealed Tuesday, Sept. 20.

Prosecutors also charged the man — Jesus Alberto Ibarra-Barraza, 31, of Tucson — with four counts of conspiring to transport illegal migrants for money and another four counts of transporting them.

His arraignment is slated for Sept. 30 in Tucson before US Magistrate Maria S. Aguilera. Incarcerated without bond, Ibarra-Barraza faces up to 10 years behind bars and a $250,000 fine for each charge, if he’s convicted.

Pima County records revealed a long rap sheet for Ibarra-Barraza, including arrests for possessing drug paraphernalia, criminal trespass, theft, and multiple traffic violations. 

Federal Agent

Some of the most dangerous arrests federal agents make along the US border with Mexico involve speeding smugglers trying to evade law enforcement. This vehicle failed to yield to US Border Patrol agents assigned to the Brian A. Terry Station in Arizona. It crashed and burst into flames. Agents detained three smugglers and four migrants were apprehended, with no injuries reported. US Border Patrol photo.

Ibarra-Barraza’s latest legal woes began around 10 a.m. on March 16.

US Border Patrol agents were tracking a white Nissan Titan pickup truck traveling from Arivaca, a village roughly 3 miles north of the Mexican border, to Amado, where Interstate 19 and other roads lead north to Tucson.

Earlier in the day, the same vehicle had been spotted motoring from Amado to Tucson, according to a federal filing.

At 11:05 a.m., US Border Patrol agents began tailing the pickup along West Arivaca Road and kept following it when it veered north onto a dirt driveway.

Suddenly, the truck stopped, and people began bolting from its bed, and then the driver peeled into a U-turn and speed out of the driveway, according to the criminal complaint.

Federal Agent US Border Patrol

Some of the most dangerous arrests federal agents make along the US border with Mexico involve speeding smugglers trying to evade law enforcement. On Aug. 5, 2022, near Benson, US Border Patrol agents assigned to the Willcox Station tried to stop a vehicle rushing north on Arizona State Route 90. Two of the passengers in the wreck were taken by helicopters to nearby hospitals. Federal agents detained two US citizens and five Mexican migrants. US Border Patrol photo.

The agents wrote that they'd found and detained four undocumented citizens of Guatemala — Florinda Chilel-Lopez, Ketzia Martinez-Mendez, Mariela Criselda Bail-Perez, and Silvia Aquino-Galacia.

Other responding agents went to interdict the Titan but instead found the vehicle overturned along West Arivaca Road.

They pulled Ibarra-Barraza out of the wreckage, and he was flown by helicopter to Banner-University Medical Center in Phoenix.

The next day, Ibarra-Barraza allegedly told a US Border Patrol agent — identified only as “R.S.” in court records — “When I get out of here, I am going to find you and kill you.”

He was indicted by a federal grand jury on Sept. 7.

Federal Agent US Border Patrol

US Border Patrol agents on horseback detain 10 undocumented migrants from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Mexico near Arivaca, Arizona, on Aug. 2, 2022. US Border Patrol photo.

One of the Guatemalan migrants, Chilel-Lopez, allegedly told agents she'd crossed the border with eight other migrants on March 14, and they'd kept walking for two days through the desert.

A man in a white truck picked them up before dawn on March 16 and brought them to an abandoned stash house where they hid until he returned around 10:40 a.m., she estimated.

Then, they started driving again, Chilel-Lopez said.

Another of the migrants, Martinez-Mendez, allegedly admitted to federal agents that she’d agreed to pay coyotes 98,000 Guatemalan quetzal — about $12,500 — to be smuggled into the US.

Federal Agent

On March 27, 2022, near Arivaca, Arizona, US Border Patrol agents stopped a vehicle and determined a juvenile US citizen was smuggling six migrants. US Border Patrol photo.

Martinez-Mendez said she'd crossed the border with four others and continued to update the coyotes with GPS coordinates whenever they rested.

At their final stop, a driver in a white truck pulled up and yelled, “cana!” — silver hair — which was their code word to run to the vehicle, according to the complaint.

Most coyotes attempting to transport migrants around US Border Patrol checkpoints are American citizens, according to a Coffee or Die Magazine analysis of borderland convictions.

Ibarra-Barraza's attorney did not respond to Coffee or Die's messages seeking comment.

Read Next: Embedded With US Border Patrol

Carl Prine
Carl Prine

Carl Prine is a senior editor at Coffee or Die Magazine. He previously worked at Navy Times, The San Diego Union-Tribune, and Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. He served in the Marine Corps and the Pennsylvania Army National Guard. His awards include the Joseph Galloway Award for Distinguished Reporting on the military, a first prize from Investigative Reporters & Editors, and the Combat Infantryman Badge.

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