Criminal JusticeFederalImmigration & BorderIssuesSan Benito Truck Driver Sentenced to Federal Prison for Smuggling 51 Illegal Aliens in Onion Shipment

A federal judge in Corpus Christi sentenced Rene Garcia to 41 months in prison to be followed by three years of supervised release.
January 28, 2022
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A 28-year-old San Benito man who was caught smuggling 51 illegal aliens in a shipment of onions has been sentenced to 41 months in prison, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

Rene Garcia will also serve three years of supervised release after he completes his prison term, per the order by U.S. District Judge Drew Tipton in Corpus Christi.

Garcia pleaded guilty last August to transporting illegal aliens after making a full confession upon his arrest at a border patrol checkpoint.

According to a criminal complaint affidavit by Special Agent Kevin Bittner, Garcia was driving a Kenworth 18-wheeler with another American citizen in the passenger seat on May 13, 2021, when he approached Falfurrias Border Patrol Station just before midnight. When Garcia provided “satisfactory” answers to border agents’ questions, they were about to let him leave the checkpoint when a police dog began reacting to the trailer.

Border agents directed Garcia to proceed to secondary inspection, where the 51 illegal aliens were found and taken into custody, per the affidavit. They had been smuggled among pallets of onions and one of them, Jorge Popoca-Morales, told police he had difficulty breathing while inside.

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Bittner indicated that the next day, Garcia told federal agents with Homeland Security Investigations that another person in San Benito had paid him to traffic the illegal aliens to Houston.

Popoca told investigators he had crossed illegally with seven others on May 13 and had been shuffled to stash houses before someone told him where the 18-wheeler could be found. Another subject, Cipriano Pavor-Perez, testified that he had crossed the Rio Grande with 12 others and waited in a mobile home for a week before finally making it to Garcia on the day he was arrested.

Border guards in Texas arrested more than 107,000 illegal aliens in December, the most recent month for which data is available.

A copy of the criminal complaint against Garcia can be found below.

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Hayden Sparks

Hayden Sparks is a reporter for The Texan. He has coached high school competitive speech and debate and has also been involved in community theater and politics. A native Texan, Hayden served as a delegate at the Republican Party of Texas Convention in 2016. He is on track to receive a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Liberty University. In his free time, Hayden is known to take walks around the neighborhood while listening to random music on Spotify.