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Press Release

Human smuggler imprisoned for lying about load of watermelons

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

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – A 54-year-old man has been ordered to federal prison for transporting illegal aliens in a tractor trailer, announced U.S. Attorney Jennifer B. Lowery.

A federal jury convicted Jose Luis Gutierrez-Plascencia, of Chicago, Illinois, May 17, following a two-day trial and 90 minutes of deliberation.

Today, U.S. District Judge David S. Morales ordered Gutierrez-Plascencia to serve 24 months in federal prison to be immediately followed by two years of supervised release. In handing down the sentence, the court noted Gutierrez-Plascencia had been caught with aliens in the cab of a tractor just one month before the incident for which he was found guilty. Several of the aliens in the trailer were also locked in with no way to communicate in the event of an emergency.

On Sept. 17, 2020, Jose Luis Gutierrez-Plascencia entered the Border Patrol (BP) checkpoint near Sarita while driving a white Freightliner commercial tractor and pulling an enclosed trailer. At trial, the jury heard testimony that Gutierrez-Plascencia had told authorities he was hauling a load of watermelons to Chicago. Law enforcement testified that he had displayed nervous behavior and answered questions rapidly.

The jury also saw an X-ray scan conducted at the scene that revealed anomalies – human bodies. Law enforcement had physically searched the vehicle and also discovered four aliens hiding in the cab of the tractor. Upon further inspection, they unlocked the trailer, with a key from Gutierrez-Plascencia’s keychain, and found three more individuals lying down inside the trailer. There were no watermelons in the vehicle.

It was later determined that the total of seven non-U.S. citizens were illegally present in the country. Two of the seven testified at trial and identified Gutierrez-Plascencia as the driver.

Gutierrez-Plascencia was permitted to remain on bond and voluntarily surrender to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near future.

BP conducted the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Joel Dunn and Ashley Martin prosecuted case.

Updated August 17, 2022

Human Smuggling