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Human Smuggling/Trafficking

Jury in southeast Texas convicts Austin man of harboring illegal alien teenager

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — An Austin, Texas, man was found guilty by a Corpus Christi jury of harboring and transporting an illegal alien, announced U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson, Southern District of Texas.

This investigation was conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), in conjunction with U.S. Customs and Border Protection's (CBP) Border Patrol (BP).

Jose Gallegos, 47, was caught at the Sarita Border Patrol checkpoint Aug. 17 with a scantily clad 18-year-old female passenger. During trial, the jury heard testimony that she was being smuggled by Gallegos and his associates from Mexico to New Jersey. The young woman provided tearful testimony that she was sexually assaulted by Gallegos, forced to wear revealing clothing and receive facial piercings. She further testified she was threatened with death if she disobeyed or told anyone.

Before he was arrested at the checkpoint, Gallegos kept the young woman and other undocumented persons, who had been smuggled from Mexico, at a Palmview motel for two weeks.

The defendant represented himself in all proceedings and claimed the government was merely attacking him. The jury disagreed and found him guilty as charged.

U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos, who presided over the trial, will set sentencing at a later date. Gallegos faces up to five years imprisonment and a possible $250,000 fine. He will remain in custody pending sentencing.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeffrey D. Preston, Southern District of Texas, is prosecuting this case.