Antonio Hurtado, 40, was charged with attempting to bring people into the US illegally and assaulting a Border Patrol agent during his arrest.
US District Judge Janis L. Sammartino called the incident “the most egregious case I’ve ever had in my courtroom in over 15 years in the Southern District of California.”
The boat hit a reef in May 2021 and broke apart near the Cabrillo National Monument in Point Loma. It contained undocumented migrants, including three unaccompanied minors, who agreed to pay between $15,000 and $18,000 to be smuggled into the country.
“Thirty-two passengers put their savings and their lives in this defendant’s hands. His reckless behavior and egregious failure to seek assistance put every one of them at serious risk and caused the tragic loss of three lives,” US Attorney Randy Grossman said in a statement.
Hurtado will be placed on supervised release for three years after completing his sentence.
CNN is working to locate an attorney for Hurtado.