LAREDO, Texas – A 20-year-old Laredo man has been sentenced after he admitted to conspiring to transport aliens, announced U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Patrick.
Luis Alberto Puente pleaded guilty Jan. 10, admitting he acted as a scout for a tanker truck loaded with 23 aliens.
Today, U.S. District Judge Marina Garcia Marmolejo ordered Puente to serve a 51-month sentence to be immediately followed by three years of supervised release. At the hearing, the court noted his other criminal behavior while he was previously out on bond.
On Sept. 13, 2019, a tanker truck arrived at the Border Patrol (BP) checkpoint on Texas State Highway 359 near Bruni. At that time, a K-9 had alerted to the presence of concealed humans and/or narcotics. Authorities directed the driver to the secondary inspection area.
Instead of complying, he accelerated at a high rate of speed and fled the checkpoint. Authorities pursued him until he came to a stop on the side of the road and absconded into the brush.
During the pursuit, a blue Ford F-150 arrived at the checkpoint. Puente was the passenger in that vehicle. He ultimately admitted to acting as a scout for the tanker truck, looking out for law enforcement as the truck drove to San Antonio.
Law enforcement unlocked the hatch to the tank of the truck, releasing hot steam. They then recovered 23 people who had been standing in approximately two feet of water and sweating profusely. They asked for help and for fresh air.
All were determined to be in the United States illegally from Mexico, Guatemala, Ecuador and Honduras. They had paid to be smuggled into the country. Several described the fear they felt while riding in the tanker. One stated she was forced into the tanker against her will.
Puente has been in custody since violating his conditions of release where he will remain pending transfer to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near future.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations conducted the investigation with the assistance of BP. Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Bukiewicz prosecuted the case.