Skip to main content

An official website of the United States government

September 21, 2022Laredo, TX, United StatesHuman Smuggling/Trafficking

HSI, federal partner investigation results sentencing of 2 former military members for transporting noncitizens

LAREDO, Texas – Two former military members stationed at Ft. Hood were sentenced to federal prison for conspiring to transport noncitizens following an investigation conducted by Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) with the assistance of U.S. Department of the Army Criminal Investigations Division and U.S. Border Patrol, Laredo Sector.

Emmanuel Oppongagyare, 22, was sentenced Sept. 20 by a federal judge to serve 21 months in federal prison while Ralph Gregory-Saint-Joie, 19, was sentenced to 13 months in prison. Both must also serve three years of supervised release following their sentences.

At the hearing, the court heard additional testimony from both men. Oppongagyare stated that, “On June 13, I made one of the worst mistakes of my life,” while Saint-Joie stated he was ashamed of what he did. In handing down the prison terms, Judge Saldaña said, “you made a horrible mistake and you’re going to get punished for it. You’re going to go to prison,” and that the defendants were “really vested in trying to make this successful.” Both Oppongagyare and Saint-Joie pleaded guilty Aug. 11, 2021. Saint-Joie has been identified as an active-duty member of the U.S. Army while Oppongagyare is from the Pennsylvania National Guard. At the time of arrest, each noted they were stationed at Fort Hood.

“The sentencing of these two individuals indicates that no one is above the law and that there are consequences waiting for those involved in human smuggling,” said Craig Larrabee, acting special agent in charge of HSI San Antonio. “HSI will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to maintain the integrity of our border and ensure the safety of our communities.”

According to court documents, on June 13, 2021, Oppongagyare and Saint-Joie attempted to go through the Border Patrol (BP) checkpoint in Hebbronville wearing their Army-issued uniforms. Upon inspection, authorities discovered two individuals hidden in the trunk who were determined to be in the country illegally. Authorities promptly took them and the soldiers into custody. At the time of arrest, both Oppongagyare and Saint-Joie were wearing their Army-issued uniforms.

At the time of his plea, Oppongagyare admitted a person he met through Saint-Joie recruited him to pick up the noncitizens from McAllen and drive them to San Antonio. They expected to be paid once they arrived the destination but did not know the exact amount. The two Mexican nationals hidden in the vehicle admitted to paying Oppongagyare and Saint-Joie a fee in exchange for passage into the United States. They also identified Oppongagyare and Saint-Joie as the driver and the passenger, respectively, of that vehicle.

The investigation determined Isaiah Gore had hired them and instructed them to wear their uniforms to possibly avoid questioning. Authorities also identified Denerio Williams and Ivory Palmer as being involved in human smuggling. Gore, Williams and Palmer were also indicted, pleaded guilty and later sentenced before U.S. District Judge Marina Garcia Marmolejo.

Both Oppongagyare and Saint-Joie were permitted to remain on bond and voluntarily surrender to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined soon. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Brian Bajew and Mark Hicks, Southern District of Texas, prosecuted the case.

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 U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (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 6,800 Special Agents assigned to 225 cities throughout the United States, and 86 overseas locations in 55 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: 09/21/2022