A Houston man has pleaded guilty to smuggling 119 illegal aliens into the United States, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Texas said on April 7.
Brodrick Keith Rhodes, 32, had claimed on Jan. 12 after having arrived at the Freer Border Patrol checkpoint that he was carrying lettuce in his semi-truck with a refrigerated trailer, officials said.
Border Patrol authorities noticed that the trailer was set to 30 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 1 degree Celsius) but had an internal temperature of 68 F (20 degrees C). They also noticed there were some discrepancies with his bill of lading, a document issued by a carrier to confirm receipt of cargo for shipment.
While Rhodes said he worked for a business in La Porte, Texas, the document said he was transporting “lettuce” from a produce company in Laredo to a destination in Sugar Land.
The business that Rhodes claimed to work for told officials that he wasn’t an employee and that the company doesn’t send produce outside the Houston area. The other two companies confirmed they had no record of the shipment.
When authorities inspected the cargo area, they found the illegal immigrants, who told them that they were taken to the truck and told to get into the trailer, after which the truck began moving and didn’t seem to stop until the border checkpoint.
Sentencing for Rhodes is expected on July 27. He faces a maximum federal prison sentence of 27 years and a fine of up to $250,000. He remains on bond pending the court date.
Texas in recent months has stepped up its response to a recent surge in the influx of illegal aliens, including by human smuggling, across the southern border.
At the start of March, Gov. Greg Abbott announced the launch of “Operation Lone Star” to combat the smuggling of people and contraband. The operation has led to referrals for more than 16,000 illegal aliens to Customs and Border Protection and the arrests of 598 criminals by the Texas Department of Public Safety.