October 21, 2020

Texas man pleads guilty to smuggling illegals into Mississippi

Paul Garza, 50, of Houston, Texas, pleaded guilty Tuesday before U.S. District Judge Sul Ozerden to transporting illegal aliens within the United States, announced U.S. Attorney Mike Hurst, Jere T. Miles, Special Agent in Charge of U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations in New Orleans, and Gregory K. Bovino, Chief Patrol Agent of the U.S. Border Patrol’s New Orleans Sector.

On March 22, 2019, a U.S. Border Patrol Agent conducted a traffic stop on a Dodge SUV with Texas license plates around the 40-mile marker on Interstate 10 eastbound.

The agent noticed multiple indicators that smuggling actively was taking place.

Ironically, the same agent had been present when the same vehicle had been previously encountered in September 2018, in Jackson, Mississippi, in an alien smuggling venture.

The agent determined that none of the passengers had proper documents and that all were illegally present in the United States.

A Homeland Security Investigations Special Agent joined the investigation at the Gulfport Border Patrol Station and determined that all the other occupants of the vehicle were being smuggled by Paul Garza.

Investigation revealed that front seat passenger, Paul Garza, actually was the primary driver; but, had been temporarily replaced as driver due to Garza’s becoming sleepy and weaving on the road. It also was noted that, while the vehicle was equipped with 7 seatbelts, it had 9 occupants, thereby depriving two of the occupants from wearing seatbelts.

Two of the illegal alien passengers were determined to be unaccompanied juveniles. Additionally, Ms. Catarina Ixquiactap Morales, an illegal alien from Guatemala, was determined to have unlawfully returned after removal from the United States, and is being separately prosecuted for that felony offense.

All of the illegal alien passengers except for Ms. Morales, were determined to have been apprehended for the first time in the United States and were placed into administrative proceedings to be officially removed from the United States.

Garza is scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Ozerden on August 1, 2019 at 10:00 a.m., and faces a potential maximum 5 years imprisonment, as well as 3 years supervised release, a maximum $250,000 fine, and special assessments that could total $5,100. Garza is a U.S. Citizen living in the Houston, Texas, area.