Houston Three years after 11 illegal immigrants died trapped in a train car, the accused leader of a smuggling ring was sentenced to more than 24 years in prison.
Prosecutors say Juan Fernando Licea-Cedillo, 28, from Mexico, led an international smuggling ring from January 2000 through February 2003.
On June 15, 2002, 11 mostly Central American immigrants were loaded into a grain hopper in Harlingen. It couldn't be opened from the inside.
Prosecutors said Licea-Cedillo lost track of the rail car after Border Patrol agents raided the train, but the trapped immigrants escaped detection and the train continued north. Shortly thereafter, they died of dehydration and hypothermia.
The rail car sat in a storage facility near Oklahoma City for four months, and was then sent to Denison, Iowa. A cleaning crew there discovered the mostly skeletonized remains.