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Man Who Crammed Nearly 60 Migrants Into A Tanker Truck Sentenced To Over 2 Years In Prison

ED JONES/AFP via Getty Images)

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Kaylee Greenlee Immigration and Extremism Reporter
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A man accused of cramming dozens of migrants into a tanker truck was sentenced to about two and a half years in prison, the Laredo Morning Times reported on Sunday.

Rafael Alberto Cazarez Jr. pleaded guilty to conspiracy to transport illegal migrants in the U.S. on July 29 and was sentenced to 33 months in prison on Wednesday, according to the LMT. Border agents were notified of human smuggling attempts using a tanker truck near Laredo, Texas, on May 27.

Border agents intercepted the tanker truck and a Chevrolet Trailblazer scout car at a highway checkpoint on May 28, the LMT reported. A federal canine alerted to the truck Cazarez was driving and it was directed to a secondary inspection where an x-ray showed abnormal cargo.

Officials found 54 migrants in the tanker truck, according to the LMT. The scout vehicle driven by Ricardo Javier Vela, with Jaime Villarreal Vigil riding as a passenger, arrived shortly after and was also referred to secondary inspection.

Border officials found heroin and a pipe in Vela’s possession, leading to the pairs’ arrest, the LMT reported. Cazarez allegedly claimed to be a Mexican Mafia gang member and said he was addicted to heroin after the arrests.

“After rights advisement and waiver, Cazarez admitted he was hired by a person known to him as ‘Chaparro’ to drive the truck to a yard where undocumented (migrants) were loaded into the truck, and then for him to drive the truck to San Antonio for $50,000,” the affidavit said, according to the LMT. “Cazarez admitted his brother, Vela, and one other person were driving the Trailblazer, the scout vehicle.”

“Cazarez further admitted he recruited Vela to transport him back to Laredo after (dropping) off the tanker truck in San Antonio,” according to the affidavit, the LMT reported. (RELATED: Border Agent Arrested For Allegedly Smuggling Illegal Migrants Into The US)

Cazarez claimed Vigil is related to “Chaparro” though he denied the association and said he was trying to get to Carrizo Springs, Texas, for a job, according to the LMT. Vela admitted to belonging to the Tango Blast gang and denied any involvement in human smuggling.

Vigil and Vela pleaded guilty to conspiring to transport migrants on July 29, the LMT reported. Both were sentenced to prison.

Smuggling operations have become increasingly organized and violent, the Washington Examiner reported June 9. People operating the vehicles carrying the illegal migrants are trying to evade apprehension and sometimes they even lose control of the vehicle trying to get away from authorities.

Most migrants deny paying for a smuggler to get into the U.S., however, a few told the Daily Caller News Foundation they were kidnapped and held in squalid stash houses on their way to the border.

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