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May 10, 2022Laredo, TX, United StatesHuman Smuggling/Trafficking

HSI investigation results in the conviction of a North Carolina man for smuggling nearly 80 and pregnant minor in trailer

LAREDO, Texas – A south Texas federal jury convicted a North Carolina man for smuggling nearly 80 and a pregnant minor inside a trailer, following an investigation conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

The jury convicted Aurelio Barajas-Pulido, 52, a legal permanent resident, for human smuggling following a one-day trial. The jury deliberated for approximately four hours before convicting Barajas-Pulido. According to court documents, the jury heard that on Feb. 8, Barajas-Pulido attempted to drive a tractor trailer through the Interstate Highway 35 checkpoint in Laredo. At inspection, Barajas-Pulido demonstrated suspicious behavior. A K-9 also alerted authorities to the presence of concealed humans. Law enforcement referred him for further inspection, after which they found a total of 80 undocumented citizens in the trailer including three unaccompanied minors, one of whom was pregnant. All were determined to be in the United States illegally.

At trial, the defense attempted to convince the jury that Barajas-Pulido did not have knowledge that he was smuggling noncitizens. However, they heard testimony from material witnesses who described their journey from their home country to the tractor trailer Barajas-Pulido drove. Law enforcement also provided testimony about how his story was not logical. The jury ultimately did not believe defense claims and found him guilty.

U.S. District Judge Marina Garcia Marmolejo presided over trial and will set sentencing for a future date. At that time, Barajas-Pulido faces up to 10 years in federal prison and a possible $250,000 maximum fine.

As a legal permanent resident, Barajas-Pulido could lose his status in the United States.

Barajas-Pulido remains in custody pending his sentencing hearing.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Matthew Isaac and Brandon Bowling, Southern District of Texas, are prosecuting 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 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: 05/13/2022