BROWNSVILLE, Texas (AP) — A Mexican man living in the U.S. illegally has pleaded guilty to helping other immigrants be smuggled by American soldiers through a border checkpoint in Texas.
Victoriano Zamora-Jasso, 51, pleaded guilty Monday to conspiracy to transport and harbor immigrants and illegal re-entry after deportation, according to federal prosecutors.
The 2014 case involved four active-duty soldiers at Fort Hood, the sprawling Army post in Central Texas. The soldiers were paid at least $1,200 per smuggled immigrant, Angela Dodge, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office, said Tuesday.
The individual soldiers, making trips between March and September 2014, showed Army identification and hid immigrants under military gear while going through the Sarita checkpoint. Some immigrants were eventually detected and investigators then linked the human smuggling cases to the Fort Hood personnel.
The soldiers were convicted of immigrant smuggling-related counts and sentenced in 2015 and 2016.
Brandon Troy Robbins, 23, of San Antonio, was sentenced to 20 months in federal prison. Eric Alexander Rodriguez, 24, of Odem, was sentenced to a year in prison. Christopher David Wix, 23, of Abilene, was sentenced to a year and a day in prison. Yashira Perez-Morales, 27, from Watertown, New York, was sentenced to five years of probation, according to prosecutors.
Zamora-Jasso was deported in 2013, then lived in Houston after slipping back into Texas. He was indicted in 2016. He remains in custody and faces up to 10 years in prison when sentenced.
Another civilian, Arnold Gracia, 47, from Harlingen, was also convicted of smuggling related counts and was sentenced to six years in prison in the case. Gracia recruited the soldiers, according to prosecutors, and Zamora-Jasso provided the immigrants.
A message left Tuesday with Fort Hood public affairs, on the military status of the four soldiers, wasn’t immediately returned.
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