Charges have now been filed against a man suspected of being the driver in a fatal crash last week on Interstate-80 in west-central Iowa. Matt Whitaker, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Iowa says the criminal complaint filed against Carlos Alberto Vasquez-Vasquez charges him with knowingly transporting illegal aliens in violation of federal law. Whitaker says the man’s a Mexican citizen, and this “load,” of 9 other men in a minivan, originated in Arizona near the Mexican border. He says the charge arises out of the accident March 4 that killed three passengers and injured all 7 others in the Nissan minivan, when it was hit by a semi. Whitaker says all the victims in the crash were Mexican nationals, and were all headed for Chicago. Whitaker says Vasquez-Vasquez suffered a broken leg. He says the man had previously been deported from the U.S. though there’s no indication he’d been transporting illegal aliens when he was in the U.S. before. Vasquez-Vasquez was taken into federal custody after his release from the hospital, and three men remain hospitalized with the injuries they suffered in the crash a week ago. Whitaker says the interstate highway brings his district a lot of cases. He’s seen a number of these types of cases come through the southern district of Iowa, as the it runs from Council Bluffs to Davenport along I-80. Whitaker calls the highway a major east-west corridor “good for our legal economy and…good for our illegal economy — drugs, guns, money, and illegal aliens.” The next step will be convening a grand jury, Whitaker says, and he expects an indictment will be issued in the next 30 days. If Mr. Vasquez-Vasquez is convicted he’ll face anywhere from five years to life in prison, though Whitaker says “It’s largely a facts-and-circumstances situation,” so as investigation goes on into the incident he doesn’t know yet just what the penalty might be. The U.S. Attorney says it’s not yet clear whether the man will also be prosecuted by the state.
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