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Justice News

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

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Military Man Sent to Prison for Human Smuggling

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – An active duty Army soldier has been ordered to federal prison following his conviction for smuggling two illegal aliens through a U.S. Border Patrol (BP) checkpoint, announced U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson along with Special Agent in Charge Mark Dawson of Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigations (HSI). Joseph Edmond Cleveland, 25, of El Paso, pleaded guilty Nov. 29, 2016.


Today, Senior U.S. District Judge Janis Graham Jack sentenced Cleveland to a 15-month-term of federal imprisonment. In handing down the sentence, Judge Jack noted an aggravating factor that Cleveland attempted to use his status as a serviceman to avoid detection. Cleveland will also be required to serve three years of supervised release following completion of his prison term.


Cleveland and co-defendant Marco Antonio Nava Jr., 20, also of El Paso, admitted they smuggled two Illegal aliens through the BP checkpoint in Falfurrias. They claimed they were approached by a man who offered to give them $1,500 if they came to the valley to drive two illegal aliens through the checkpoint. On June 19, 2016, the defendants approached the checkpoint with the two illegal aliens in the rear passenger seats of the vehicle. The BP agent asked one of the passengers if he had documents to be in the United States legally to which he said no. Both passengers were ultimately found to be aliens unlawfully present in the U.S. and taken into custody.


Upon questioning, the illegal aliens stated they crossed into the country eight days prior and had been moved to two different trailer homes. On the day of their arrest, they were told by a person in the trailer home that someone was going to come to pick them up and take them Houston. Nava was driving and told them to get into the vehicle. Once inside, the illegal aliens were told they were going to go through an immigration checkpoint and were coached as what to answer to the agent's questions at the checkpoint.


Cleveland was permitted to remain on bond and voluntarily surrender to the U.S. Marshals Service a date to be determined in the near future.


Nava also pleaded guilty for his role and will be sentenced at a later date.


HSI conducted the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeffrey S. Miller is prosecuting the case.

Human Smuggling
Updated February 9, 2017