August 20, 2009
JURY CONVICTS RIO BRAVO RESIDENT OF CONSPIRING TO TRANSPORT UNDOCUMENT ALIEN
(LAREDO, Texas) – Legally admitted permanent resident Jose Arturo Plata, 51, born in Jalisco, Mexico, and a resident of Rio Bravo, Texas, has been convicted of transporting, as well as conspiracy to transport for financial gain, an alien who was present in the United States illegally, United States Attorney Tim Johnson announced today. Plata, who had pleaded not guilty to the charges, was found guilty of both federal offenses today by a federal jury following a day and a half trial. United States Senior District Judge George P. Kazen presided.
During trial, the jury heard testimony which proved that on June 3, 2009, Plata, along with three other co-defendants who have already pleaded guilty, was part of a conspiracy to transport five aliens. Plata and the others were being observed by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents, ICE Task Force Members and Webb County Sheriff’s (WCSO) deputies at the Sam’s Warehouse parking lot, the McDonald’s parking lot across the street and at various other locations in Laredo. ICE agents observed Plata driving his personal truck and transporting an alien to the McDonald’s restaurant in North Laredo and delivering him to another co-defendant who, in turn, delivered the alien to a waiting tractor at the Sam’s Warehouse parking lot. In the meantime, other co-defendants were seen delivering other aliens to the tractor parked at Sam’s parking lot. ICE agents moved in and arrested all four defendants at the Sam’s parking lot, the McDonald’s parking lot and at another location at the same time. Plata physically resisted arrest and did not give a statement.
During trial, Plata testified claiming he was present only because he was transporting to the McDonald’s parking lot the cousin of Maria Alicia Sanchez, a female co-defendant with whom he claimed to be having an affair. He denied having any knowledge about transporting illegal aliens. However, evidence presented at the trial revealed numerous calls between Plata and co-defendant Sanchez before and during the smuggling event.
The three previously convicted co-defendants charged along with Plata who are pending sentencing are: Jose Luis Anaya, Juan Antonio Perez-Macias, and Sanchez, all of whom are in federal custody without bond pending sentencing.
The penalty for each offense is a maximum term of 10 years in prison. In addition, Plata is subject to a maximum fine of $250,000. Following the completion of his sentence, he also faces a maximum of three years of supervised release. Plata remains in custody pending sentencing.
The investigation leading to the charges in this case was conducted by ICE and the ICE Task Force, with the cooperation and support of the Webb County Sheriff’s Office. Assistant United States Attorney Homero Ramirez prosecuted the case.
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