South Texas jury convicts truck driver for smuggling 105 noncitizens inside refrigerated trailer
LAREDO, Texas – A California man was convicted for conspiring to transport and transporting noncitizens within the United States, following an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).
The Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) and U.S. Border Patrol (USBP) Laredo Sector assisted in the case.
Christopher Faust, 32, from Sacramento, California, was convicted Aug. 11, in U.S. federal court after a jury deliberated fewer than four hours.
According to court documents, on May 5, law enforcement stopped Faust for a traffic violation, at which time he claimed to be transporting green bananas. However, law enforcement quickly noticed the temperature on the refrigerated trailer was too high for produce. A a drug-sniffing K-9 then alerted to an odor emanating from inside the vehicle. Authorities opened the trailer and found 105noncitizens.
The jury heard from a representative of the storage facility who Faust claimed had given him the load of green bananas. He told the jury they do not ship green bananas and that Faust never picked up a load of produce from the facility.
The defense attempted to convince the jury Faust did not know that the noncitizens, all 105 of them, were in his trailer. The jury did not believe those claims and found him guilty as charged.
A federal judge set sentencing for Nov 16. At that time, Faust faces up to 10 years of imprisonment and a maximum fine of $250,000.
Faust was permitted to remain on bond pending his sentencing.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys David Fawcett and Aaron Petters, of the Southern District of Texas, prosecuted the case.
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.