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Human smuggler who struck Border Patrol agent with rock is sent back to prison

Border Patrol officials called Valencia-Cortez one of San Diego’s most dangerous human smugglers.
(Customs and Border Protection)

A prolific human smuggler who struck a Border Patrol agent in the face with a rock during a failed smuggling attempt in the mountains in the southeastern edge of San Diego County was sentenced Monday to more than eight years in prison.

Martel Velencia-Cortez, 39, was convicted in May of assault on a federal officer and three counts of human smuggling for financial gain. U.S. District Judge Marilyn Huff handed down a sentence of eight years and three months in prison, the U.S. attorney’s office said.

Border Patrol agents spotted the Mexican national guiding 15 people across mountainous, rocky terrain in Jacumba on a chilly night in Nov. 15, 2015. Valencia-Cortez ran from the group when agents intercepted them. As agents closed in on him, he hurled a softball-sized rock from about 30 feet away, hitting one of them in the face.

Valencia-Cortez ran back across the U.S.-Mexico border and escaped, only to turn himself in to authorities at the San Ysidro Port of Entry six months later.

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Border Patrol officials called the fugitive Valencia-Cortez one of San Diego’s most dangerous human smugglers. They said he is known for assaulting agents, threatening and intimidating people he’s smuggled, and driving the wrong way on streets and freeways to evade arrest.

Less than two months prior to the the assault with the rock, Valencia-Cortez had been deported to Mexico after serving a sentence of nearly three years in prison for human smuggling.

david.hernandez@sduniontribune.com

Hernandez writes for the San Diego Union-Tribune

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