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Press Release

Former soldiers sentenced for transporting undocumented citizens

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

LAREDO, Texas – Two former soldiers stationed at Fort Hood have been ordered to federal prison for conspiring to transport undocumented aliens within the United States, announced U.S. Attorney Jennifer B. Lowery.

Emmanuel Oppongagyare, 22, pleaded guilty Aug. 11, 2021, while Ralph Gregory Saint-Joie, 19, pleaded guilty the following day.

Today, U.S. District Judge Diana Saldaña imposed a 21-month-term of imprisonment for Oppongagyare, while Saint-Joie received 13 months. Both must also serve three years of supervised release following their sentences. At the hearing, the court heard additional testimony from both men. Oppongagyare remarked that, “On June 13, I made one of the worst mistakes of my life,” while Saint-Joie stated he was ashamed of what he did. In handing down the prison terms, Judge Saldaña commented, “you made a horrible mistake and you’re going to get punished for it. You’re going to go to prison,” and that the defendants were “really vested in trying to make this successful.”

Saint-Joie has been identified as an active duty member of the U.S. Army while Oppongagyare is from the Pennsylvania National Guard. At the time of arrest, each noted they were stationed at Fort Hood.

On June 13, 2021, Oppongagyare and Saint-Joie attempted to go through the Border Patrol (BP) Checkpoint in Hebbronville wearing their army-issued uniforms. Upon inspection, authorities discovered two individuals hidden in the trunk who were determined to be in the country illegally. Authorities promptly took them and the soldiers into custody. At the time of arrest, both Oppongagyare and Saint-Joie were wearing their Army-issued uniforms.

At the time of his plea, Oppongagyare admitted a person he met through Saint-Joie recruited him to pick up the aliens from McAllen and drive them to San Antonio. They expected to be paid once they arrived the destination but did not know the exact amount.

The two Mexican nationals hidden in the vehicle admitted to paying Oppongagyare and Saint-Joie a fee in exchange for passage into the United States. They also identified Oppongagyare and Saint-Joie as the driver and the passenger, respectively, of that vehicle.

The investigation determined Isaiah Gore had hired them and instructed them to wear their uniforms to possibly avoid questioning. Authorities also identified Denerio Williams and Ivory Palmer as being involved in human smuggling. Gore, Williams and Palmer were also indicted, pleaded guilty and later sentenced before U.S. District Judge Marina Garcia Marmolejo.

Both Oppongagyare and Saint-Joie were permitted to remain on bond and voluntarily surrender to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near future.

Homeland Security Investigations and Department of the Army – Criminal Investigations Division conducted the investigation with the assistance of BP conducted the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Brian Bajew and Mark Hicks prosecuted the case.

Updated September 20, 2022

Human Smuggling