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Human Smuggling/Trafficking

Texas man sentenced to 4 years in prison for harboring female at motel

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — An Austin, Texas, man was sentenced Wednesday for harboring and transporting an illegal alien, following an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

Jose Gallegos, 47, was convicted by a Corpus Christi federal jury Dec. 10, 2013, after a two-day trial and about 45 minutes of deliberation.

Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos, who presided over the trial, handed down a 48-month sentence to be immediately followed by three years of supervised release.

On Aug. 17, 2013, Gallegos was caught at the Sarita Border Patrol checkpoint with a scantily-clad 18-year-old female passenger. During trial, the jury heard testimony that she was being smuggled by Gallegos and his associates from Mexico to New Jersey. The young woman provided tearful testimony that she was sexually abused by Gallegos, forced to wear revealing clothing and receive facial piercings. She further testified she was threatened with death if she disobeyed or told anyone.

Gallegos kept the young woman and other undocumented persons being smuggled from Mexico at a Palmview motel for two weeks before being arrested at the checkpoint.

The defendant appeared pro se, representing himself in all proceedings and claimed the government was merely attacking him. The jury disagreed and found him guilty as charged.

Gallegos will remain in custody pending transfer to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near future.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection's (CBP) Border Patrol assisted with the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeffrey D. Preston prosecuted the case.