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August 19, 2022Corpus Christi, TX, United StatesHuman Smuggling/Trafficking

South Texas man sentenced to max prison term for illegally transporting undocumented migrants following HSI Corpus Christi-led investigation

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – A South Texas man with multiple prior convictions for human smuggling was sentenced Aug. 17 to the statutory maximum prison sentence for illegally transporting undocumented migrants following a Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Corpus Christi-led investigation with assistance from U.S. Border Patrol (BP).

Eric Mendiola, a 37-year-old resident of San Benito, was sentenced in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas to five years in federal prison for illegally transporting undocumented migrants within the United States. Mendiola, who pleaded guilty to the charges May 23, will also be required to serve two years of supervised release following his release from prison.

At the time of his plea, Mendiola admitted that on March 20, he drove a tractor trailer into the BP checkpoint near Sarita. During inspection, a K-9 alerted authorities to the presence of concealed humans. Law enforcement opened the doors of the trailer and discovered a large group of individuals hiding behind a load of produce.

In total, 31 unlawfully present migrants were discovered inside the trailer including 19 from Mexico, five from Colombia, four from Guatemala, two from El Salvador, and one from Honduras. The temperature inside the refrigerated trailer was 41 degrees Fahrenheit.

Mendiola will remain in custody pending transfer to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined soon. Assistant U.S. Attorney John Marck prosecuted the case.

For more news and information on HSI’s efforts to disrupt and dismantle human trafficking and human smuggling organizations operating in Southeast Texas follow us on Twitter @HSIHouston.