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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Southern District of Texas

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Jury convicts “high priest” for transporting illegal aliens in the back of his Buick

CORPUS CHRISTI – A federal jury sitting in Corpus Christi has convicted a 59-year-old Mission man for smuggling two illegal aliens within the United States, announced U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Patrick.

The jury deliberated for approximately one hour before convicting Emiliano Espinoza-Guajardo following a two-day trial.

During trial, the jury heard that on Oct. 15, 2019, Espinoza-Guajardo drove a Buick Rendezvous to the Border Patrol (BP) checkpoint near Falfurrias. When authorities approached his vehicle for an immigration inspection, he displayed signs of nervousness. Law enforcement requested and received consent to open the back door of vehicle, at which time they discovered two men on the floorboard of the backseat attempting to conceal themselves.

Both men were found to be illegally present in the United States.

The jury heard from both men who had each identified Espinoza-Guajardo as the driver. They testified that Espinoza-Guajardo instructed them to remain quiet and hide before arriving at the checkpoint. One of the individuals stated that he also gave Espinoza-Guajardo his Ecuadorian passport for safe keeping.

The defense attempted to convince the jury Espinoza-Guajardo did not know the people he was driving were illegally present in the United States. He also claimed to be a high priest who could do no wrong. They did not believe his claims and found him guilty as charged.

Senior U.S. District Judge Hayden Head presided over the trial and set sentencing for June 10. At that time, Espinoza-Guajardo faces up to five years in prison and a possible $250,000 maximum fine.

Espinoza-Guajardo has been and will remain in custody pending transfer to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near future.

United States Border Patrol conducted the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jeremy Carl Fugate and Barbara De Pena are prosecuting the case.  

Topic(s): 
Immigration
Component(s): 
Updated March 3, 2020