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Press Release

South Texan sentenced for summer smuggling of 70 in semi

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

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – A 60-year-old Mission resident has been ordered to federal prison following his conviction for transportation of an undocumented alien, announced U.S. Attorney Alamdar S. Hamdani.

Thomas Taylor Charlton pleaded guilty May 2.

U.S. District Judge David S. Morales has now ordered Charlton to serve 51 months in federal prison to be immediately followed by three years of supervised release. At the hearing, the court heard additional evidence regarding the incident that described 70 people locked in a trailer with only hatchets to exit.

Before imposing the sentence, Judge Morales also heard additional evidence regarding his history which includes a conviction for aggravated battery.

On July 10, 2022, Charlton arrived at the Javier Vega Jr. Border Patrol (BP) checkpoint. He claimed he was hauling chili peppers, but a K-9 alerted to the trailer. Law enforcement had to use bolt cutters to remove the lock and gain access to the trailer. They also found hatchets located in the trailer.

Upon further investigation, authorities discovered 70 people illegally present in the United States concealed behind pallets of produce in the locked refrigerated trailer portion of the tractor trailer Charlton was driving.

They also found a handheld walkie talkie in the trailer and cab of the tractor, both on the same frequency that would allow communication between the tractor and trailer.

The key to the trailer was found in the cab.

Charlton will remain in custody pending transfer to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near future.

Homeland Security Investigations and Border Patrol conducted the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Liesel Roscher and Patrick Overman prosecuted the case.

Updated September 26, 2023

Human Smuggling