CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – A 46-year-old man has been found guilty of illegal re-entry into the United States, announced U.S. Attorney Jennifer B. Lowery.
Today, U.S. District Judge Drew B. Tipton deliberated for five hours before handing down a guilty verdict against Jose Villatoro-Avila following a two-day bench trial. Villatoro-Avila is a citizen of El Salvador who was found illegally present within the United States. He was previously twice convicted of the same crime.
Evidence and testimony showed that on April 6, 2021, law enforcement apprehended Villatoro-Avila in Kenedy County while he was trying to circumvent the Javier Vega Jr. checkpoint. Authorities quickly pursued and were able to apprehend him while he was still in the brush.
The judge also heard that Villatoro-Avila had been convicted – twice – of illegal re-entry into the United States. At a previous sentencing, he told the court “I promise I will never come back here if you give me leniency.”
However, evidence and testimony revealed he unlawfully returned to the country two more times after making that promise to the judge. The investigation further revealed he had been removed from the country multiple times beginning in 1999 and as recently as 2016.
At trial, the court heard how authorities had used his fingerprints to make the identification, thus revealing the previous deportations.
During trial, the defense attempted to convince the court there was a possibility of evidence that showed Villatoro-Avila had received permission to re-enter the United States from appropriate authorities. The defense also attacked the credibility of fingerprint testimony and his identification at the time of his previous removals from the country.
Judge Tipton did not believe the claims and found Villatoro-Avila guilty as charged.
Villatoro-Avila is set for sentencing Aug. 3. At that time, he faces up to 20 years in federal prison.
He has been and will remain in custody pending that hearing.
Border Patrol conducted the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorneys J. Parker Gochenour and Christopher Marin are prosecuting the case.