ICE HSI-led investigation results in South Texas grand jury indicting Houston man for smuggling 119 undocumented immigrants
LAREDO, Texas – Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Laredo office conducted an investigation leading to the indictment of a Houston man charged with conspiracy to transport undocumented immigrants.
This indictment was announced by Acting Special Agent in Charge, Craig Larrabee and U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Patrick, Southern District of Texas. This investigation was led by HSI with the assistance of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Border Patrol.
On Feb. 9, a Laredo grand jury returned an indictment against Brodrick Keith Rhodes, 32, from Houston, charging him with conspiracy to transport undocumented immigrants. Rhodes is expected to appear before a U.S. magistrate judge in the near future.
According to court documents, the charges allege that on Jan. 12, authorities stopped Rhodes after he approached the Freer Border Patrol checkpoint driving a semi-truck and refrigerated trailer. He had claimed he was hauling lettuce and produced a bill of lading. However, law enforcement allegedly noticed discrepancies and that Rhodes appeared nervous. Further, the refrigerated trailer was set to 30 degrees but the internal temperature was at 68, according to the charges. After a K-9 alerted to possible presence of contraband in the cargo area of the trailer and a subsequent inspection, authorities ultimately discovered 119 undocumented immigrants.
Rhodes allegedly claimed he worked for a business in La Porte, Texas, but the bill of lading indicated he was transporting lettuce from a Laredo produce company to a location in Sugar Land. The business indicated Rhodes had never been employed with them nor do they transport outside the Houston area, according to the charges. Further, the complaint alleges the other two companies confirmed they had no record of the shipment. Some of the transported undocumented immigrants said they had been taken to and told to get in the truck. It left soon after and did not stop until it reached the checkpoint, according to the allegations.
If convicted, Rhodes faces up to 10 years in prison and a maximum possible $250,000 fine.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Paul A. Harrison, Southern District of Texas, is prosecuting the case.
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, 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.