DOUGLAS, Ariz. — An Eloy man was sentenced Jan. 16 to 71 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release for his involvement in human smuggling — specifically, recruiting smugglers via social media platforms. Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) investigated this case.
“This human smuggler recruiter found out the hard way that it didn’t pay off to recruit drivers for illegal smuggling activity,” said HSI Arizona Special Agent in Charge Fransisco B. Burrola. “Any time you trust a smuggler, you’re putting your life in the hands of a criminal. HSI is committed to disrupting human smuggling networks no matter the role — recruiter, driver, coordinator, stash house operator, lookout and any others who undermine our immigration laws and put countless individuals at risk for mere profit.”
Nathanael Alley Rivera, 23, of Eloy, pleaded guilty on Sept. 6, 2023, to conspiracy charges related to his supervisory role in transporting hundreds of undocumented noncitizens for financial gain. During the first months of the conspiracy, Rivera was on probation for a previous human smuggling conviction.
According to records, from May 2021 through November 2022, Rivera recruited drivers and mid-level coordinators for transporting noncitizens by soliciting them on Snapchat. The Snapchat posts often included photos of large sums of money and firearms; they also included requests for drivers to move undocumented noncitizens from locations near the U.S.-Mexico border farther into the United States. While committing these crimes, Rivera used Snapchat to communicate directly with his mid-level coordinators, who then communicated with transport drivers. The conspiracy involved the transportation of hundreds of undocumented noncitizens, and Rivera bragged to co-conspirators about transporting people in overcrowded vehicles and generally unsafe conditions. He also used minors to facilitate certain smuggling events.
HSI Douglas continues to address the serious public safety threat posed by human smuggling organizations and their reckless disregard for the health and safety of the people they exploit. To report suspicious smuggling activity, call 866-347-2423.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Arizona in Tucson prosecuted the case.
HSI is the principal investigative arm of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), responsible for investigating transnational crime and threats, specifically those criminal organizations that exploit the global infrastructure through which international trade, travel and finance move. HSI’s workforce of more than 8,700 employees consists of more than 6,000 special agents assigned to 237 cities throughout the United States, and 93 overseas locations in 56 countries. HSI’s international presence represents DHS’ largest investigative law enforcement presence abroad and one of the largest international footprints in U.S. law enforcement.