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June 8, 2020Laredo, TX, United StatesHuman Smuggling/Trafficking

South Texas man pleads guilty to conspiracy to transport illegal aliens

Federal authorities discover 63 illegal aliens in back of trailer after truck driver flees checkpoint

LAREDO, Texas — On Monday, a South Texas man entered a guilty plea for his role in a conspiracy to transport illegal aliens within the country.

This case is being investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Laredo Office with the assistance of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Border Patrol.

Leonidas Navarro, 30, from Zapata, Texas, entered a guilty plea June 8, before U.S. District Court Judge Diana Saldaña for conspiracy to transport illegal aliens within the country.

According to court documents, on Jan. 21, Leonidas Navarro drove a semi-truck and trailer combination through the Laredo North Border Patrol checkpoint on Interstate 35. Upon inspection, a K-9 alerted to the presence of contraband in the trailer. Navarro also could not provide a bill of lading for the goods he was supposedly transporting. He was then referred to secondary inspection.

Instead of complying with the officer's direction, Navarro increased his speed and drove through a fence and into a field before he ultimately crashed. He jumped out of the truck and attempted to flee but was soon captured. Authorities found a total of 63 illegal aliens that had been hidden inside the truck. No one was seriously injured during the crash.

U.S. District Court Judge Saldaña will impose sentencing later, at which time, Navarro faces up to 10 years in federal prison. He remains in custody pending that hearing.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Paul Harrison, Southern District of Texas, is prosecuting this case.

Updated: 06/10/2020