FederalImmigration & BorderIssuesRio Grande Valley Man Pleads Guilty to Smuggling 68 Illegal Aliens in Onion Shipment

The Pharr resident faces a prison sentence of up to five years and a $250,000 fine.
July 20, 2022
A Hidalgo County man could be sentenced to up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine after he pleaded guilty to smuggling 68 illegal aliens in a shipment of onions.

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced in a news release last week that 45-year-old Leonardo Davila Sr. smuggled individuals from Honduras, El Salvador, Mexico, Guatemala, and Peru. The DOJ added that all of them were confirmed to be illegally present in the United States.

“On May 4, 2021, Davila drove a tractor trailer into the Border Patrol (BP) checkpoint near Falfurrias. At inspection, a K-9 alerted authorities to the presence of concealed humans,” the DOJ stated. “Law enforcement opened the trailer and discovered 68 undocumented individuals among pallets of onions.”

Davila will be sentenced on October 13 and is in the U.S. government’s custody until then, the DOJ indicated.

In late June, first responders in San Antonio found 48 people dead in a tractor-trailer in a human smuggling attempt. Five more victims died at the hospital.

The Texan Tumbler

The two accused smugglers face possible death sentences on federal charges of conspiracy and alien smuggling resulting in death.

Davila is not facing capital punishment because there were no deaths as a result of this crime.

Rep. Bryan Slaton (R-Royce City) recently contended in an interview with The Texan that anyone guilty of human smuggling should be eligible for capital punishment. He asserted that increasing the penalty will have a deterrent effect.

Earlier this year, a man from San Benito was found guilty of smuggling 51 individuals in a shipment of onions as well. He was also caught at the Falfurrias checkpoint and received a 41-month prison sentence.


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Hayden Sparks

Hayden Sparks is a senior reporter for The Texan and a lifelong resident of the Lone Star State. He has coached competitive speech and debate and has been involved in politics since a young age. One of Hayden's favorite quotes is by Sam Houston: "Texas has yet to learn submission to any oppression, come from what source it may."