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Press Release

Container-ship stowaway charged with illegal re-entry to the United States

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of Georgia
El Salvadoran found on board ship in Savannah harbor

Savannah, Ga – An El Salvador man previously deported after being caught illegally entering the United States is charged with attempting to re-enter by stowing away on a container ship.

Jaime Dagoberto Chavez-Guevara, 35, was taken into custody Wednesday, April 3, aboard the container ship Santa Linea in the Port of Savannah by agents from U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and charged with illegal entry of the United States after prior deportation and stowing away on a vessel, said Bobby L. Christine, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Georgia.

The charges carry a possible combined penalty of up to 15 years in federal prison.

According to court proceedings and documents in the case, CBP had been notified Tuesday, April 2, by ZIM Shipping Lines, operator of the Santa Linea, that crew members had detained Chavez-Guevara after discovering him on board the ship without permission. After CBP took Chavez-Guevara into custody, the subsequent investigation determined that he had been deported in May 2017 from San Antonio, Texas, and again in January 2018 from Phoenix, Az, after he was convicted of felony illegal entry after prior removal.

Chavez-Guevara told investigators that his girlfriend in Miami, Fla., had sent $6,000 to his family in El Salvador, and he used the money to arrange for a smuggler to get him on board the Santa Linea while the ship was anchored in Panama. Along with one of the smugglers who took him to the ship via a small boat, Chavez-Guevara climbed the anchor chain to board the vessel through the anchor hatch. The smuggler then showed Chavez-Guevara where he could hide on the ship until it docked in the United States. Santa Linea crew members discovered Chavez-Guevara during the trip to the Port of Savannah.

“Our office will ensure that those who repeatedly enter the United States illegally will be caught and prosecuted,” said Bobby L. Christine, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Georgia. “There is zero tolerance for those who break the law to get here, and they don’t get extra points for persistence or creativity.”

“Identifying and stopping criminal networks that engage in cross-border human smuggling as well as individuals who seek to illegally enter the U.S. is a priority focus for Homeland Security Investigations,” said HSI Atlanta Special Agent in Charge Nick S. Annan. “These criminal organizations have no regard for the well-being of the people they attempt to smuggle, who are often put at great risk during an attempt to illegally enter the U.S., and HSI will continue to work collaboratively with our federal, state and local partners to investigate and prosecute such activity.”

Charges are only allegations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until he is proven guilty.

This case is beings investigated by Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), and prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Alejandro V. Pascual IV and Joe McCool on behalf of the United States.


For any questions, please contact Barry Paschal at the United States Attorney’s Office at (912) 652-4422.

Updated April 5, 2019

Human Trafficking
Human Smuggling
Press Release Number: 34-19