Three National Guardsmen assigned to the Texas-Mexico border were accused of running an immigrant smuggling ring after 24 immigrants were found inside a van one of them was driving, the U.S. Attorney said Monday.
Pfc. Jose Rodrigo Torres, 26, and Sgt. Julio Cesar Pacheco, 25, both of Laredo, and Sgt. Clarence Hodge Jr., 36, of Fort Worth were arrested near Laredo.
A Border Patrol agent found 24 illegal immigrants inside a van Torres was driving along Interstate 35 near Cotulla, Texas, about 68 miles north of the border, the U.S. attorney’s office said. Torres was in uniform at the time of his arrest Thursday.
Prosecutors accused Hodge of helping Torres pass through a Border Patrol checkpoint on the highway by making it look like the two were conducting Guard business.
Both are assigned to Operation Jump Start, President Bush’s initiative to place Guard troops at the border to help local and federal authorities with immigration enforcement. All the soldiers volunteer for the border initiative.
Pacheco was accused of recruiting soldiers to transport the migrants for $1,000 to $3,500 a trip. He and Hodge were arrested Friday.
Prosecutors say the soldiers participated in several smuggling trips before last week’s arrests.