Hawthorne man pleads guilty in death of two undocumented immigrants

Hawthorne man admits guilt in death of two immigrants found in trunk of his car

A Hawthorne man pleaded guilty Tuesday to felony charges stemming from the August death of two undocumented immigrants that he was attempting to smuggle into the U.S.

Nicholas Zakov, 43, pleaded guilty to smuggling immigrants that resulted in death and to smuggling immigrants for money. Zakov showed "callous disregard" for the safety of the two immigrants.

Tarcisio Casas-Blanco, 28, and Jose Aurelio Quiriz-Casas, 20, were found dead at the San Ysidro Border Patrol station in the trunk of Zakov's 2012 Dodge Challenger. Zakov had been promised $3,500 to smuggle the pair into the U.S.

The two had died of hyperthermia and mechanical asphyxiation, prosecutors said. Zakov admitted that he had ignored the screams of the two that the summer heat and the car fumes leaking into the trunk were suffocating them.

Zakov could face between three years to life in prison, along with a $250,000 fine when sentenced April 10 in San Diego federal court.

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