Houston-area man imprisoned for smuggling 20 noncitizens in locked trailer
CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — A Houston-area man was sentenced to federal prison May 10 for smuggling 20 unlawfully present noncitizens in the locked trailer of a shipping truck. The investigation that led to the prison sentence was conducted by Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Houston’s Corpus Christi office.
Vince Ruiz III, a 33-year-old resident of Humble, Texas, was sentenced in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas to 18 months in federal prison to be immediately followed by two years of supervised release. On July 6, 2022, he pleaded guilty to three counts of illegally transporting noncitizens.
At the hearing, the court heard that in the event of an emergency or accident, the smuggled individuals would not have been able to get out of the trailer. In discussing the factors impacting the sentence, the court remarked on Ruiz’s use of his commercial driver’s license as a special skill in committing the offense.
On Oct. 5, 2021, Ruiz drove a white Freightliner tractor pulling two trailers marked “FedEx Ground” into the primary inspection lane at the Border Patrol checkpoint located near Falfurrias. At that time, Ruiz possessed a valid commercial driver’s license. During inspection, a K-9 alerted authorities to one of the trailers.
Authorities searched the trailer and found 20 unlawfully present noncitizens inside, behind a locked door, including a 16-year-old unaccompanied minor. Law enforcement officials also discovered 15 grams of marijuana and five grams of cocaine.
At the time of his plea, Ruiz admitted he drove to Edinburg to pick up the trailer and return to Cypress. During the trip, he pulled over to the side of the road in a secluded area where the undocumented individuals entered the trailer. The passengers were later determined to be illegally present in the country.
Ruiz will remain in custody pending transfer to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near future.
Former Assistant U.S. Attorney J. Parker Gochenour prosecuted the case and Assistant U.S. Attorney Tyler Foster handled the sentencing.
For more news and information on HSI Houston’s efforts to investigate human smuggling in Southeast Texas, follow us on Twitter @HSIHouston.
HSI is 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 more than 8,700 employees consists of more than 6,000 special agents assigned to 237 cities throughout the United States, and 93 overseas locations in 56 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.