JUNE 12, 2007
Three United States National Guardsmen assigned to help stop illegal immigration at the Texas-Mexico border instead ran a sophisticated and lucrative immigrant smuggling operation.
The guardsmen (Jose Rodrigo Torres and Julio Cesar Pacheco of Laredo, and Clarence Hodge of Fort Worth) were recently arrested near a Cotulla highway after immigration authorities discovered 24 illegal immigrants stuffed inside their National Guard van. Torres, dressed in his military uniform, was driving the loaded van when he got arrested.
The officers have admitted smuggling dozens of illegal aliens from Mexico in various trips across the border. They charged the immigrants $1,500 to $3,500 and ordered them to stay down and be quiet inside the vehicle. One of the guardsmen would easily drive the packed van through another’s border checkpoint in Laredo. The officers face sentences of 10 years in prison and fines of up to $250,000.
Federal prosecutors say the corrupt officers used cell phone text messages, discovered by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents, to communicate details of upcoming smuggling trips. The messages included details such as how much they would make for a certain trip, what highway they would use and how many illegal immigrants would be taken across the border.
This is hardly the first time that U.S. agents are caught taking hefty cash bribes to smuggle illegal immigrants into the country. In California at least nine border agents have been arrested or charged in the last year and a half and in Texas at least 10 agents have been charged or sentenced.
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