McALLEN — A U.S. district judge sentenced a Rio Grande City man to three years in federal prison for his role in a human smuggling scheme involving more than 10 undocumented persons, court records show.
U.S. District Judge Micaela Alvarez handed Rodolfo Mejia, 26, a 36-month prison sentence in connection with harboring charges related to the discovery of a stash house last September in a Rio Grande City residence.
The discovery of the stash house, and subsequently 13 undocumented persons, took place Sept. 10, 2018, in a residence located in the 100 block of West Palmas Street as part of surveillance on the home conducted by U.S. Border Patrol agents and investigators with the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas task force.
Authorities arrested Marcos Aguilar, who claimed responsibility for the 13 undocumented persons he was harboring in exchange for $40 a day each.
“Aguilar stated he was hired by a smuggler known to him as ‘Cuate.’ Aguilar was able to positively identify ‘Cuate’ in a six-pack photo lineup,” the document stated.
The man Aguilar stated he knew as Cuate was identified by authorities as Mejia.
Aguilar said he began harboring undocumented persons for Mejia after an in-person interview, where arrangements were made between them for Aguilar to begin harboring people for Mejia.
The 13 people discovered at the stash house were all sent there by Mejia, Aguilar told authorities.
One of the 13 men discovered in the house, a Mexican national, provided statements to authorities about his smuggling into the country.
The man said he made arrangements for his own smuggling directly with Mejia, who requested $2,500 in exchange for the task.
The same man said he had been smuggled into the U.S. with Mejia’s help four different times; on the first two occasions, he stated he was smuggled into the country with three other undocumented persons. The third time was with five undocumented persons, and the fourth was with a total of nine other people, the complaint stated.
Mejia pleaded guilty to one of the two federal harboring charges he faced in late February, court notes show.
In addition to the three years in prison, Mejia will be required to serve three years of supervised release upon completing his sentence.
Mejia, who was arrested in November 2018 and could have been sentenced to as many as 51 months in prison, has been in custody for more than six months, records show.