A south Texas man admitted to smuggling noncitizens who were trapped in a travel trailer, following an investigation by Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Corpus Christi and the U.S. Border Patrol (BP).
Gaston Perez, a 40-year-old Brownsville resident, pleaded guilty in the Southern District of Texas, Nov. 1, to transporting unlawfully present noncitizens within the United States.
On June 30, Perez drove a truck hitched with a recreational vehicle (RV) into the Javier Vega BP checkpoint near Sarita, Texas. Shortly after, a K-9 alerted law enforcement to the RV. Further inspection revealed multiple individuals trapped in the back of the travel trailer. They were unable to exit on their own due to the slide outs being drawn in and not having power to extend them.
Authorities used jumper cables to restart the RV battery and operate the slide outs. Five people were located in the back of the trailer including two inside a bed. Three additional individuals were discovered in the front of the RV.
Law enforcement used a backscatter machine to scan the travel trailer and found two anomalies inside a wooden entertainment console. They removed a television set and discovered two more individuals sweating profusely.
A total of 10 unlawfully present noncitizens were located in the RV. One of them told authorities she felt like she was going to faint as she was getting out of the trailer.
Perez is scheduled to be sentenced Feb. 15, 2023. At that time, he faces up to five years in prison and a possible $250,000 maximum fine.
Perez was allowed to remain on bond pending that hearing.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Liesel Roscher and J. Parker Gochenour are prosecuting the case.
HSI is a directorate of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the principal investigative arm of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), responsible for investigating transnational crime and threats, specifically those criminal organizations that exploit the global infrastructure through which international trade, travel, and finance move. HSI’s workforce of over 10,400 employees consists of more than 6,800 special agents assigned to 225 cities throughout the United States, and 93 overseas locations in 56 countries. HSI’s international presence represents DHS’s largest investigative law enforcement presence abroad and one of the largest international footprints in U.S. law enforcement.
For more news and information on HSI Houston’s efforts to investigate human smuggling in Southeast Texas follow us on Twitter @HSIHouston.