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March 25, 2022Laredo, TX, United StatesHuman Smuggling/Trafficking

ICE HSI investigation results in sentencing of 2 Fort Hood soldiers for role in human smuggling conspiracy

LAREDO, Texas – Two soldiers stationed in Fort Hood, Texas, but detailed to Laredo were sentenced to federal prison Friday for conspiring to transport noncitizens.

The investigation was worked in part by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigation (HSI) with the assistance of U.S. Army Criminal Investigations Division and U.S. Border Patrol (USBP).

Isaiah Gore, 21, and Denerio Williams, 22, were sentenced March 25 by U.S. District Judge Marina Garcia Marmolejo. Judge Marmolejo sentenced Gore to 30 months in federal prison while Williams was ordered to serve 24 months. Both must also serve three years of supervised release following their sentences. In handing down the prison terms, Judge Marmolejo noted that Gore and Williams, as soldiers in the Army, were “not the average citizen,” which justified a tougher sentence. Judge Marmolejo also emphasized that everyone involved in the scheme knew that wearing a uniform would assist in evading detection or arrest. Both Gore and Williams pleaded guilty Dec. 2, 2021.

An additional defendant Ivory Palmer, 21, also an active U.S. duty soldier is expected to be sentenced in the next few months.

According to court documents, the investigation began June 13, 2021. On that day, authorities caught Emmanuel Oppongagyare and Ralph Gregory Saint-Joie smuggling noncitizens in the trunk of a vehicle at the Border Patrol checkpoint located in Hebbronville, Texas. At the time of arrest, both men were wearing their U.S. Army uniforms. Oppongagyare later admitted Gore recruited them to pick up the noncitizens from McAllen, Texas, and drive them to San Antonio, Texas. Oppongagyare and Saint-Joie were indicted and pleaded guilty Aug. 11 and 12, respectively, in 2021. Both are currently awaiting sentencing before U.S. District Judge Diana Saldaña.

The investigation later confirmed Oppongagyare, Saint-Joie, Williams and Palmer each served a role in the conspiracy as drivers who would travel to locations in Texas to transport the noncitizens in exchange for money. Authorities further confirmed that Gore actively recruited people to pick up the noncitizens.

Both Gore and Williams were permitted to surrender to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near future. Gore has since been discharged from the U.S. Army.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Brian Bajew and Mark, Southern District of Texas, prosecuted the case.

HSI San Antonio is committed to investigating human smuggling organizations that prey on the vulnerable and place profit over life. HSI encourages you to report suspicious activity, you are urged to call 1-866-348-2423. It could save a life.

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.