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Man charged with smuggling in connection with California crash that killed 13

California Highway Crash Imperial County Holtville SUV
Posted at 12:35 PM, Mar 31, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-31 15:35:11-04

HOLTVILLE, Calif. (KGTV) -- A man has been charged for smuggling-related offenses in connection with a crash killed 13 Mexican and Guatemalan nationals in Holtville, California in early March.

According to the US Attorney’s Office, Jose Cruz Noguez of Mexicali, Mexico, was charged in federal court Tuesday with coordinating the March 2 smuggling event.

Cruz was charged with "conspiracy to bring aliens to the United States outside a port of entry causing serious bodily injury/placing life in jeopardy." He was also charged with "bringing in aliens without presentation for financial gains," according to authorities.

Authorities say Cruz came to the attention of law enforcement when he was identified by another suspected smuggler.

“The associate pointed the finger at Cruz, telling authorities he had worked for Cruz in the past, and had been recruited by Cruz to be the driver of the ill-fated vehicle from that tragic day.”

The crash happened around 6:15 a.m. on March 2 when a 1997 Ford Expedition SUV collided with a big rig along State Route 115 at Norrish Road.

This story originally reported by Zac Self on 10News.com.