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Texas man pleads guilty to smuggling 119 undocumented immigrants in tractor-trailer

Texas man pleads guilty to smuggling 119 undocumented immigrants in tractor-trailer
According to officials with U.S. Customs and Border Protection, CBP agents have stopped numerous human-smuggling attempts using commercial trucks and trailers. This Feb. 9, 2021, photo, shows undocumented immigrants packed in the cargo area of a tractor-trailer. (Courtesy: CBP)

LAREDO, Texas — A 32-year-old man has entered a guilty plea to conspiracy to transport illegal immigrants, according to an April 7 announcement by Acting U.S. Attorney Jennifer B. Lowery.

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On Jan. 12, Brodrick Keith Rhodes arrived at the Freer Border Patrol checkpoint driving a semi truck hauling a refrigerated trailer. He claimed he was hauling lettuce, but authorities with U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) noticed discrepancies in his bill of lading.

Rhodes claimed to work for a business in La Porte, Texas, but the bill of lading indicated he was transporting lettuce from a Laredo produce company to a location in Sugar Land, Texas. When contacted, the business indicated that Rhodes had never been employed by the company; in addition, the company does not transport products outside the Houston area. The other two companies confirmed they had no record of the shipment.

CPB officials also noted that Rhodes appeared “nervous,” and that, while the refrigerated trailer was set to 30 degrees, the internal temperature was actually 68 degrees. At secondary inspection, law enforcement ultimately found 119 people hiding in the trailer’s cargo area.

The undocumented immigrants told authorities they had been taken to a truck and told to get in the trailer, and that the truck soon departed and did not stop until it reached the Freer checkpoint.

U.S. District Judge Marina Garcia Marmolejo will impose sentencing July 27. At that time, Rhodes faces up to 10 years in federal prison and a potential fine of up to $250,000. He was permitted to remain on bond pending that hearing.

Homeland Security Investigations conducted the investigation with the assistance of CBP. Assistant U.S. Attorney Paul A. Harrison is prosecuting the case.

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