Brodrick Keith Rhodes, 32, had claimed on Jan. 12 after having arrived at the Freer Border Patrol checkpoint that he was carrying lettuce in his semi-truck with a refrigerated trailer.
Authorities noticed that the trailer was set to 30 degrees Fahrenheit (-1 degree Celcius) but had an internal temperature of 68 (20 degrees Celcius).
They also noticed there were some discrepancies with his bill of lading, a document issued by a carrier to confirm receipt of cargo for shipment. While Rhodes told authorities he worked for a business in La Porte, Texas, the document said he was transporting “lettuce” from a produce company in Laredo to a place in Sugar Land.
The business had told authorities that they were not Rhodes’s employer, and that they do not send produce outside the Houston area. The other two companies also confirmed they had no record of the shipment.
When authorities inspected the cargo again, they found 119 illegal immigrants in the cargo area of the trailer.
The illegal immigrants inside told authorities they were taken to the truck and told to get into the trailer, after which the truck began moving and did not seem to stop until the border checkpoint.
Sentencing for Rhodes is expected on July 27. He faces a maximum federal prison sentence of 27 years and a fine of up to $250,000. He was allowed to remain on bond pending the hearing.
Texas in recent months has stepped up its action in response to a recent surge in the influx of illegal aliens, including by human smuggling, across the southern border.
At the start of March, Gov. Greg Abbott announced the launch of “Operation Lone Star” to combat the smuggling of people and contraband. The operation has seen over 16,000 illegal aliens referred to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and 598 criminals being arrested by the Texas Department of Public Safety.