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May 18, 2022Laredo, TX, United StatesHuman Smuggling/Trafficking

2 facing charges for smuggling over 100 noncitizens through Laredo checkpoints, following HSI, federal partner investigation

LAREDO, Texas – A south Texas federal jury returned two separate and unrelated indictments which involve transporting and/or smuggling of large groups of noncitizens via tractor trailers, following an investigation conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) with the assistance of the U.S. Border Patrol, Laredo Sector.

David William McKeon, 67, Laredo, and Ramiro Leija-Urbina, 31, Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, are charged in a three and two-count indictment, respectively. They are both expected to appear for their arraignments before a U.S. Magistrate Judge in the near future. Both were originally charged by criminal complaint and have remained in custody.

The first indictment alleges that on April 20, McKeon drove a tractor trailer to the Border Patrol (BP) checkpoint on Interstate Highway 35. During initial inspection, law enforcement heard noises coming from inside of the trailer, according to the charges. They opened the doors and allegedly discovered 124 non-U.S. citizens including two unaccompanied minors. The indictment alleges all were determined to be illegally present in the country.

McKeon had an expired commercial driver’s license and was to be paid for driving the vehicle to San Antonio, according to the charges.

A separate, but similar indictment against Leija-Urbina alleges he attempted to drive a tractor trailer though the Interstate Highway 35 BP checkpoint in Laredo. There, a K-9 allegedly alerted authorities to the presence of concealed humans, according to the charges.

Upon further inspection, law enforcement allegedly discovered 160 non-U.S. citizens in the trailer. All were determined to be illegally present in the United States, according to the charges.

Leija-Urbina is a also non-immigrant visa holder and could face removal proceedings if convicted.

McKeon is charged with human smuggling and faces up to 30 years in prison, while Leija-Urbina faces up to 10 years, upon conviction for illegally transporting undocumented aliens.

Both could also be ordered to pay up to $250,000 in fines.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Brian Bajew and Matthew Isaac, Southern District of Texas, are prosecuting the McKeon and Leija-Urbina cases, respectively.

HSI San Antonio continues to address the serious public safety threat posed by human smuggling organizations and their reckless disregard for the health and safety of the people they exploit. To report suspicious smuggling activity, you are urged to call 1-866-348-2423.

HSI is a directorate of 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 7,100 special agents assigned to 220 cities throughout the United States, and 80 overseas locations in 53 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.

Updated: 05/23/2022