CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – A 37-year-old San Benito man has pleaded guilty to illegally transporting undocumented aliens within the United States, announced U.S. Attorney Jennifer B. Lowery.
Eric Mendiola admitted to smuggling the individuals while driving an 18-wheeler.
On March 20, Mendiola drove a tractor trailer into the Border Patrol (BP) checkpoint near Sarita. A K-9 soon alerted authorities to the presence of concealed humans. Law enforcement opened the doors of the trailer and discovered individuals hiding behind a load of produce.
In the trailer were 19 Mexican nationals, five Columbian nationals, four Guatemalan nationals, two El Salvadorian nationals and one Honduran national. All were determined to be in the United States illegally. In addition, the temperature inside the refrigerated trailer was 41 degrees Fahrenheit.
U.S. District Judge Drew B. Tipton will impose sentencing Aug. 17. At that time, Mendiola faces up to five years in federal prison and a possible $250,000 fine.
Mendiola has been and will remain in custody pending that hearing.
Homeland Security Investigations conducted the investigation with the assistance of BP. Assistant U.S. Attorney John Marck is prosecuting the case.