Jury convicts Texas man for illegally transporting aliens
LAREDO, Texas – A Laredo federal jury has convicted a 60-year-old San Antonio man for transporting two dozen illegal aliens in a hidden compartment within a moving truck, announced U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Patrick.
They deliberated for eight hours before returning the verdicts against Clarence James Lee following a one-day trial on two counts of transporting an alien.
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.
The jury heard Lee had consented to a search a search of the truck. Soon after, law enforcement 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, the aliens 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 argue that Lee thought he was smuggling narcotics. Therefore, he did not have the required intent to be convicted of alien smuggling. The jury was not convinced and found him guilty.
Two others in a scout car pleaded guilty for their roles in the scheme.
U.S. District Judge Diana Saldaňa presided over the trial and will set sentencing at a later date. At that time, Lee faces up to five years in prison and well as a maximum $250,000 fine.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations and Border Patrol conducted the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Paul Harrison and Jennifer Day are prosecuting the case.