Alleged immigrant smuggler makes first federal court appearance |

Alleged immigrant smuggler makes first federal court appearance

DENVER A federal judge has formally advised a Mexican immigrant that he faces a sentence of up to life in prison on charges stemming from a traffic accident that killed four people.Jose Francisco Franco-Rodriguez, 23, is charged with transporting illegal immigrants resulting in death and unlawful re-entry into the United States. Authorities said he lost control while driving a van packed with 14 illegal immigrants. The van struck a tree and rolled on Interstate 70 near Idaho Springs on Nov. 28, killing three men and a pregnant woman.Prosecutors allege Franco-Rodriguez had been paid $400 to drive his passengers from the Phoenix area to Kansas City and then North Carolina and Florida.U.S. Magistrate Judge Michael Watanabe appointed a federal public defender to represent Franco-Rodriguez and scheduled a detention and arraignment hearing for Friday after prosecutors asked that Franco-Rodriguez be held without bond until his trial.Clear Creek County District Attorney Mark Hurlbert earlier this month agreed to drop state charges to allow the federal prosecution to go ahead. One of his assistant district attorneys will work with federal prosecutors on the case, he has said.Federal prosecutors said a federal judge in Atlanta had ordered Franco-Rodriguez deported in October 2005.

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