Pilot in plane crash involving undocumented migrants pleads guilty to felony human smuggling charge

Photo courtesy of Joel Nuñez/Presidio County Sheriff’s Office. A plane crash north of Presidio airport left five wounded and the pilot at large in the aftermath of a human smuggling operation.

PRESIDIO — Tobias Penner Peters, the Seminole man who in 2021 crashed a plane carrying undocumented migrants near the Presidio airport, has pleaded guilty to transporting undocumented citizens causing serious bodily injury, a felony that could land him in prison for up to 20 years. He is now awaiting an April sentencing.

Peters was accused of participating in a human trafficking scheme after crashing a plane just beyond the runway at the Presidio-Lely Airport on December 30, 2021. The crash injured five undocumented migrants — one so severely that she was life-flighted to El Paso and “remains in a wheelchair today,” per a press release from the Western District of Texas U.S. Attorney’s Office. 

On the day of the crash, Peters fled the scene — leaving behind a “substantial amount of blood” and taking with him handheld radios, a cell phone, paperwork and “what appeared to be a firearm,” per the deposition of Homeland Security Investigations Task Force Officer Coleman Boring. 

Three months later, Peters turned himself in at the Presidio International Bridge. He was  booked at the Presidio County Jail and eventually granted conditional release, allowing him to wait out the legal proceedings at his home in Seminole.

Peters last year was indicted by a grand jury on one count of “conspiracy to transport illegal aliens” and one count of “transportation of illegal aliens causing serious bodily injury,” to which he entered a not guilty plea. He has now pleaded guilty to one of those two counts, a result of a plea agreement reached with the government.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Amy Greenbaum prosecuted the case. Peters retained two lawyers: Monty Kimball of Alpine and Antonio Rodriguez of Presidio. (None of the attorneys involved responded to requests for comment by press time.)

Peters is currently slated to face sentencing in Alpine on April 25, where he will face a maximum of 20 years in prison.