Victoria, Texas - A former fugitive who was illegally residing in Houston pleaded guilty Tuesday to engaging in an alien smuggling conspiracy that resulted in two deaths, and to kidnapping two women, one of whom was killed. 

The guilty plea was announced by U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson of the Southern District of Texas and Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. The case was investigated by the following agencies: U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI); U.S. Border Patrol agents with the South Texas Campaign and South Texas Border Intelligence Center; Houston Police Department; Harris County Sheriff’s Office; and the U.S. Marshals Service.

Noe Aranda-Soto, aka “Diablo,” 36, of San Carlos, Michoacan, Mexico, pleaded guilty to kidnapping resulting in death, use of a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence resulting in death, and conspiracy to transport aliens for private financial gain resulting in death. The guilty plea was accepted by U.S. District Judge John D. Rainey, with sentencing set for Sept. 12.  Aranda-Soto faces a mandatory term of life in federal prison. 

In his plea agreement, Aranda-Soto admitted that from 2010 until his arrest in 2012, he led an alien-smuggling and hostage-taking organization that transported aliens from areas near the south-Texas checkpoints to local stash houses in Houston and points north. On Aug. 1, 2010, his brother was driving a vehicle loaded with illegal aliens when it rolled over near Victoria, Texas. One victim died as a result of the accident, while another was left behind in the brush and died of exposure and dehydration. A third victim was in a coma for nearly a year and now suffers from permanent injuries, according to the plea. 

Law enforcement stopped Aranda-Soto a few days later, but he fled. Still a fugitive on the 2010 charges, Aranda-Soto admitted he returned to Houston in 2012 and began holding aliens hostage in Houston-area stash houses. After law enforcement rescued a group of aliens being held hostage and arrested several of Aranda-Soto’s employees from one of the locations in October 2012, Aranda-Soto planned to escape from Houston with two female employees.

According to the plea agreement, while on Interstate 10 near Katy, Texas, Aranda-Soto became agitated and shot both the driver and the other female passenger multiple times. The injured driver jumped from the moving car and survived. Aranda-Soto then purposefully drove the car erratically, causing the other woman to be ejected from the moving vehicle onto the highway where she was subsequently run over by multiple other vehicles and killed, according to admissions in the plea agreement.

At the hearing Tuesday, the court heard that as the driver jumped from the moving car, she had apologized to the other woman. That victim then screamed in return “tell my children I love them.”

Law enforcement arrested Aranda-Soto a week later at yet another stash house, which was full of illegal aliens whom Aranda-Soto and his co-conspirators were holding hostage. 

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

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Patti H. Booth and Casey N. MacDonald, are prosecuting the case along with Trial Attorney Jeffrey Zick of the Criminal Division’s Capital Case Section, Southern District of Texas.