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Man pleads guilty in human smuggling case

A Houston, Texas, man pleaded guilty earlier this month in federal court to transporting illegal aliens for financial gain after being stopped in Jackson County around Christmas.

A federal grand jury indicted Hector Escobedo-Reyna Feb. 6. He took the plea May 9, and sentencing has been set for Aug. 20.

“Human smugglers carry out their illegal activities seeking financial gain with little regard for human life and no respect for our laws,” U.S. Attorney Byung J. “BJay” Pak said in a news release. “Additionally, they endanger not only the people they smuggle, but innocent motorists, when an over-loaded vehicle like the one he was driving either has an accident or causes one.”

Defense attorney Victoria Calvert did not immediately return a request for comment.

In late December, Georgia State Patrol stopped a Chevrolet Suburban on Interstate 85 northbound in Jackson County.

According to an affidavit from an ICE agent, the trooper encountered Escobedo-Reyna with eight adult passengers and two minors. Escobedo-Reyna had a Texas license and a U.S. passport.

The 10 passengers were originally from Guatemala, Ecuador, Honduras and El Salvador.

“They all stated they were present in the U.S. illegally and were being smuggled to their destination of choice with their families along the eastern seaboard of the U.S. to include New York, New Jersey, Washington, D.C., Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina,” according to the agent’s affidavit.

Two of the passengers said their families had paid fees for the smuggling.

“(The two passengers) both stated they had paid an unidentified male to drive them, and that person drove them to a parking lot in Houston, Texas, where he handed the vehicle to Escobedo-Reyna along with names and phone numbers of the family members of the passengers to (be) dropped off,” according to the affidavit.

The ICE agent filed the affidavit in support of Escobedo-Reyna’s arrest, saying there was probable cause that the man “was transporting 10 illegal aliens within the United States as part of a human smuggling scheme.”

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