Franklin, Tennessee Man Sentenced To Federal Prison For Transporting Illegal Alien
Former THP Sergeant Paid $8,000 to Smuggle Woman into the U.S.
Ronald Edward Strickland, 69, of Franklin, Tenn., was sentenced today in U.S. District Court, to 30 months in prison, followed by 3 years of supervised release, for smuggling a Honduran woman into the United States, announced U.S. Attorney Don Cochran of the Middle District of Tennessee.
Strickland was also ordered to pay a $75,000 fine by U.S. District Judge Sean Cox, who remarked that Strickland was a sexual predator who preys on young and vulnerable women and that he gave the families money so that they would allow him to have sex with their daughters.
Strickland, a retired Tennessee Highway Patrol sergeant, was arrested on a criminal complaint on August 1, 2016, and indicted on August 31, 2016. He pleaded guilty to the charge on June 20, 2017.
“The self-serving actions of this individual not only violated our nations’ immigration laws but placed the lives of vulnerable people in grave danger,” said U.S. Attorney Cochran. “We will continue to work closely with Homeland Security Investigations to aggressively pursue those who facilitate the illegal entry of persons into the U.S.”
According to court documents, in early 2016, Strickland devised a plan to smuggle a 22- year-old female from Honduras into the United States. Strickland texted the woman on January 7, 2016, about uniting with him and engaging in a sexual relationship. Strickland then began a series of text communications with an individual in Honduras and others, in which he discussed smuggling the woman into the United States. Strickland maintained the text communications, monitoring the progress of the woman’s journey, until he was notified that the woman had arrived in Houston, Texas.
Additional testimony and evidence introduced during court proceedings established that Strickland caused the woman to attempt to enter the U.S. twice before her third successful entry. He monitored her progress through social media and was aware of the dangers she faced during the journeys, including becoming lost in the desert for days in the middle of the summer with no supplies and being injured after having to jump from a train. During one of the woman’s journeys, Strickland messaged a family member and stated that his “friends” were under control of the Zetas (a violent Mexican criminal organization) and commented that it would be better if the women were caught by immigration officials. During another instance, the woman was not answering Strickland’s phone calls and Strickland threatened that if she had used him, he would obtain an arrest warrant against her alleging that she had stolen money from him and that would cause her to be put in jail and deported.
In July 2016, Strickland drove to Houston, Texas, where he picked up the woman and drove her to his home in Franklin, Tenn.
Acting on a tip, on July 22, 2016, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) agents went to Strickland’s Franklin home, where they located the 22-year-old female. The subsequent investigation determined that the woman had been illegally smuggled into the United States and that Strickland had paid a coyote $8,000 to smuggle her from Honduras to the United States. The investigation also determined that Strickland maintained an apartment in Honduras and travelled there on a regular basis.
Assistant Special Agent in Charge Robert Hammer, who oversees HSI operations in Tennessee said, “HSI is committed to aggressively investigating those individuals that attempt to smuggle women into the country and illegally harbor them in their homes.”
In considering enhancements to the sentence, Judge Cox found that the perils of the woman’s journey were reasonably foreseeable to Strickland and that he was responsible for intentionally or recklessly creating a substantial risk of death or bodily injury to the woman being smuggled. Judge Cox particularly noted that she was under the control of armed smugglers and gang members; that women in her group were robbed and sexually molested; that she had to jump from a moving train; and that her group was sent into the desert alone, without food or water.
This case was investigated by Homeland Security Investigations and was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Lynne T. Ingram and Henry Leventis.