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Press Release

Security guard detained for attempted human smuggling

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

McALLEN, Texas – A 59-year-old legal permanent resident of Mission has been ordered to remain in custody for his role in attempting to smuggle an undocumented alien, announced U.S. Attorney Alamdar S. Hamdani.

Ernesto Gaona-Gonzalez appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge Nadia S. Medrano who found him to be a danger to the community and a flight risk and ordered him to remain in custody pending further criminal proceedings.

A federal grand jury retuned the indictment April 5, which was unsealed upon his arrest April 12.

Gaona allegedly attempted to transport an alien by motor vehicle through Mission.

Gaona was employed as a security guard for the purpose of checking vehicles entering Anzalduas Park in Mission.

At the hearing today, the court heard that on Sept. 4, 2022, a female undocumented non-citizen was allegedly being held against her will. Gaona allegedly had the victim in his vehicle and contacted a friend for money in exchange for releasing her.

If convicted, Gaona faces up to five years in prison and a maximum $250,000 fine.

Homeland Security Investigations conducted the investigation with the assistance of Border Patrol and the Federal Air Marshal Service. Assistant U.S. Attorney Jongwoo Chung is prosecuting the case.

An indictment is a formal accusation of criminal conduct, not evidence. A defendant is presumed innocent unless convicted through due process of law.

Updated April 18, 2023

Human Smuggling