A 22-year-old man arrested last year after he admitted he was hired to drive a van loaded with undocumented immigrants from Phoenix, Arizona to Dallas was sentenced Thursday to 17 months in federal prison.
Angel Andres Fraga-Hernandez, a Mexican national, faced up to five years in prison after pleading guilty in January to a count of transportation of an illegal alien.
He also faces six state felony counts of human smuggling, which are second-degree felonies that carry a punishment of two to 20 years in prison.
Fraga-Hernandez's charge stems from a Texas Department of Public Safety investigation that began on June 20 when a state trooper stopped him for a traffic violation along U.S. Highway 84 in Lubbock County east of Quaker Avenue, said DPS Sgt. Johnny Bures.
During the stop, the trooper discovered there were 10 undocumented non-citizens, including a 5-year-old girl, in the 2010 Honda Odyssey van Hernandez drove, according to court documents.
The girl and her mother were identified as citizens of Ecuador while the rest of Hernandez's passengers were from Mexico. They told investigators they illegally crossed the U.S.-Mexico border and were headed to Dallas for work.
Court documents state Hernandez reportedly told DPS investigators he was taking the people in his van from Phoenix, Arizona to Dallas for money.
Hernandez, who said he crossed the border four months before, denied to investigators that he was involved with a smuggling organization but said he was recruited to transport undocumented non-citizens into the U.S.
He reportedly told DPS investigators the van he drove was bought for driving undocumented non-citizens across the border. Investigators seized more than $3,500 in cash from Hernandez, which investigators believed was proceeds from smuggling, the documents state.
This article originally appeared on Lubbock Avalanche-Journal: Man sentenced to federal prison for smuggling undocumented immigrants