A former star of Tijuana’s professional soccer team, who has been jailed since September for trying to smuggle two undocumented immigrants through the Otay Mesa border crossing, was sentenced Monday in federal court in San Diego to time served.
Raúl Enríquez Arámbula, 37, who last played for the Club Tijuana Xoloitzcuintles in 2013, pleaded guilty in October to one count involving human smuggling.
U.S. District Judge Thomas Whelan on Monday ordered him to be released from jail and gave him credit for the 86 days he has been in custody since his Sept. 11 arrest. The term was just shy of the 90-day recommended sentence prosecutors calculated in a sentencing document.
Enríquez is the Xolos’ all-time top scorer with 81 goals in 203 matches between 2007 and 2013. During his tenure with the team he helped lead Club Tijuana from Mexico’s second division to its first division.
According to prosecutors and U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Enríquez, who has not played professionally since 2018, tried to drive into the U.S. around 5 a.m. on Sept. 11 through a SENTRI lane at the Otay Mesa Port of Entry. While at the customs booth, an officer shined a flashlight into the back of his Cadillac SUV and noticed a dark blanket covering something.
Officers searched the SUV and found two Mexican women hiding in the vehicle, a CBP officer wrote in a probable cause statement filed with the court. Enríquez, who had presented a B1/B2 business and tourism visa in the SENTRI lane, denied knowing the women were in his vehicle.
Prosecutors did not file a sentencing memorandum and offered no argument at sentencing, a spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.
Enríquez’s sentencing memo told a rags-to-riches life story about a boy and his eight siblings who grew up in the bakery that his father ran out of their home in a small town in the Mexican state of Colima. Enríquez signed his first professional contract at 18, launching a 20-year career. His attorney described him as a devoted husband to his wife of 12 years and a “wonderful father” of two.
“Prior to this offense, Raul had decades of exemplary behavior and never had any run-ins with the law,” defense attorney Anton Vialtsin wrote. “Moreover, his actions in this case were aberrational, a wayward departure from the person he has been his entire life. He dedicated his life to soccer and was a role model to thousands of fans.”
The document gave no insight as to Enríquez’s motivation for committing the crime.