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LAREDO, Texas – A 30-year-old Mexican national has pleaded guilty for his role in a conspiracy to transport aliens within the United States, announced U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Patrick.

On Oct. 7, 2019, authorities spotted a group of individuals crossing from the Mexican side of Falcon Lake via a boat and entering a red Ford Explorer in the United States. They located the SUV and attempted to get behind it. However, the driver – later identified Ruben Ernesto Mendoza-Zapata – fled the scene at a high rate of speed. During the pursuit, Mendoza-Zapata tried rounding a curve, but rolled the vehicle several times.

Law enforcement secured the scene and rescued the occupants, one of whom was pinned underneath the vehicle. At the time of the rollover, a 6-year-old boy was also in the SUV.

Mendoza-Zapata and two others were taken to the hospital but have since recovered.

Mendoza-Zapata, also in the United States illegally, claimed a man in Zapata approached him and offered to pay him to transport the undocumented aliens.

U.S. District Judge Marina Garcia Marmolejo accepted the plea and will set sentencing at a later date. At that time, Mendoza-Zapata faces up to 20 years in federal prison and a possible $250,000 fine. Not a U.S. citizen, he is expected to face removal proceedings following the sentence.

He has been and will remain in custody pending sentencing.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations conducted the investigation with the assistance of Border Patrol. Assistant U.S. Attorney David Fawcett is prosecuting the case.

MIL Security OSI