LAREDO, Texas – A 28-year-old Laredo resident has been ordered to federal prison for conspiring to transport undocumented immigrants using a tractor-trailer, according to acting U.S. attorney Jennifer B. Lowery.
On May 11, U.S. District Judge Marina Garcia Marmolejo ordered Jose Maria Ramirez to serve a 57-month sentence, to be immediately followed by three years of supervised release. In handing down the sentence, the court noted that Ramirez has repeatedly broken the law and has had supervised release revoked multiple times. Marmolejo further explained there was sufficient evidence to show Ramirez was heavily involved in the human-smuggling conspiracy and was held accountable for the undocumented immigrants in a tractor-trailer as well as a stash house.
Ramirez pleaded guilty Nov. 24, 2020, while co-conspirator Eloy Martinez-Carranza entered a guilty plea Dec. 8, 2020. Martinez-Carranza, 35, of South Carolina, was sentenced April 30, also by Marmolejo, to 36 months in prison, to be immediately followed by three years of supervised release.
On Oct. 1, 2020, Martinez-Carranza approached the U.S. 83 Border Patrol checkpoint driving a semi-truck and trailer. Soon after his arrival, a K-9 alerted to the presence of contraband in the trailer. Authorities cut the seal on the trailer and found 40 undocumented immigrants, including three unaccompanied minors. The temperature inside the trailer was approximately 109 degrees. Law enforcement also observed coffee grounds scattered around the trailer.
Martinez-Carranza claimed he was traveling to Laredo from South Carolina to work as a trucker. However, he did not have a commercial driver’s license or any trucker training. Upon further investigation, authorities identified a location suspected to be a stash house for the undocumented immigrants. Law enforcement conducted surveillance and stopped a vehicle, driven by Ramirez, leaving the house. Authorities searched the home and found a total of 22 undocumented immigrants, including more unaccompanied minors.
Ramirez will remain in custody pending transfer to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility, to be determined in the near future. Homeland Security Investigations conducted the investigation with the assistance of Customs and Border Protection. Assistant U.S. attorney Paul Harrison prosecuted the case.