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Press Release

3 sent to prison for smuggling 24 in hidden compartment

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of Texas

LAREDO, Texas – Two men and one woman have been sentenced for their part in a conspiracy to transport illegal aliens, announced U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Patrick.

A Laredo federal jury deliberated for eight hours following a one-day trial Jan. 16 before convicting Clarence James Lee, 61, San Antonio. Co-conspirators Ellis Levaughn Boston, 48, San Antonio, and Julie Perez, 34, Elmendorf, pleaded guilty Dec. 3, 2019.

Today, U.S. District Judge Diana Saldana ordered Lee to serve a total of 46 months in federal prison, while Boston and Perez were sentenced to respective terms of 24 and 15 months. They all must also serve three years of supervised release. At the hearing, the court heard additional information including testimony detailing Lee’s knowledge of the scheme and how much he was to be paid for driving the truck. In handing down the sentence, Judge Saldana noted the trio appeared to be a “motley crew” who were easily convinced to take part in the scheme.

On Sept. 26, 2019, authorities at the Bruni immigration checkpoint on Texas Highway 359 stopped a Penske truck. Lee was driving. He said he lived in San Antonio and was moving furniture to Kingsville. During the initial inspection, a K-9 detected contraband in the cargo area of the truck.

Authorities conducted a search and discovered 24 illegal aliens hidden behind a false wall built into the truck. Furniture and appliances were blocking the door, leaving those inside with no means of escape. Upon their release, they were sweating profusely, gasping for air and immediately asked for water. A temperature reading inside the truck measured 94 degrees.

At trial, the jury heard Lee was to be paid cash and narcotics to drive the truck from Laredo to Kingsville. Testimony revealed he admitted he thought it contained contraband. However, Lee claimed he did not know people were in the back of the truck until he received a call about eight minutes prior to arriving at the checkpoint. He still decided to continue his trip.

The defense attempted to convince the jury that while Lee thought he was smuggling narcotics, he did not intend to transport persons. The jury was not convinced and found him guilty as charged.

Boston and Perez were in a scout car and admitted to their roles in the scheme. Perez admitted at today’s sentencing hearing that she knew the smugglers in Laredo and put them in contact with her boyfriend, Boston. Boston admitted to recruiting Lee to drive the truck in exchange for money.   

All three defendants have been and will remain in custody pending transfer to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near future.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations and Border Patrol conducted the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Paul Harrison and Jennifer Day prosecuted the case.

Updated January 12, 2022

Human Smuggling