WACO, TX — Two Fort Hood active duty soldiers entered guilty pleas over allegations of attempting to smuggle undocumented Mexican citizens to San Antonio for compensation, according to acting U.S. Attorney Jennifer B. Lowery.
U.S. Army soldiers Emmanuel Oppongagyare, 21, plead guilty on August 11 and Ralph Gregory Saint-Joie, 18, plead guilty late last week.
On Sunday morning, June 13, Oppongagyare drove a sedan to the Hebbronville Border Patrol (BP) Checkpoint with Saint-Joie riding as a passenger.
Both men were wearing their uniforms to avoid questioning from authorities, and Oppongagyare told authorities during the primary inspection that they were traveling from Zapata to San Antonio.
When asked about the unusual route of travel Oppongagyare further explained that his GPS navigated him in this direction; for border patrol this is a common explanation used by smugglers, according to the criminal complaint.
When referred to a secondary inspection by authorities, according to the criminal complaint, border patrol agents recognized that while they conducted pat downs that both suspects were avoiding eye contact, communicating in low tones, and using hand signals. Agents then discovered two undocumented Mexican citizens in the trunk of their vehicle, according to the charges.
The allegations hold that the soldiers were expecting to receive an undisclosed amount of money for transporting the two individuals from McAllen to San Antonio.
The incident is being investigated under BP and Homeland Security; and Assistant U.S. Attorney Brian Bajew is prosecuting the case.
Oppongagyare and Saint-Joie can face up to 10 years in federal prison and a possible $250,000 fine.