Texas security guard detained for attempted human smuggling following HSI, federal partner investigation
McALLEN, Texas — A South Texas man was ordered to remain in custody for his role in attempting to smuggle a noncitizen woman following an investigation conducted by Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) with assistance from the U.S. Border Patrol in McAllen and the Federal Air Marshal Service.
Ernesto Gaona-Gonzalez, 59, of Mission, was charged with attempting to smuggle a noncitizen. On April 18, U.S. Magistrate Judge Nadia S. Medrano found Gaona-Gonzalez to be a danger to the community and a flight risk and ordered him to remain in custody pending further criminal proceedings.
According to court documents, a South Texas federal grand jury retuned the indictment April 5, which was unsealed upon his April 12 arrest. Gaona-Gonzalez allegedly attempted to transport an alien by motor vehicle through Mission. He was employed as a security guard for the purpose of checking vehicles entering Anzalduas Park in the same city. At the hearing April 18, the court heard that on Sept. 4, 2022, an noncitizen woman was allegedly being held against her will. Gaona-Gonzalez allegedly had the victim in his vehicle and contacted a friend for money in exchange for releasing her.
If convicted, Gaona-Gonzalez faces up to five years in prison and a maximum $250,000 fine. An indictment is a formal accusation of criminal conduct, not evidence. A defendant is presumed innocent unless convicted through due process of law.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Jongwoo Chung of the Southern District of Texas is prosecuting the case.
HSI San Antonio continues to address the serious public safety threat posed by human smuggling organizations and their reckless disregard for the health and safety of the people they exploit. To report suspicious smuggling activity, call 866-348-2423.
HSI is 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 more than 8,700 employees consists of more than 6,000 special agents assigned to 237 cities throughout the United States, and 93 overseas locations in 56 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.