Border Patrol: Smugglers used loud music, fried chicken to convince of citizenship

Loud music, dancing and apparently eating fried chicken did little to convince Border Patrol agents that the occupants of a Toyota RAV4 were U.S. citizens. Border Patrol arrested two people at the Sarita checkpoint Sunday who used these measures in an attempt to conceal that they were in the country illegally.

The alleged smuggling attempt happened about 2:45 p.m. as the vehicle, which was driven by Brittany Wilhite, arrived at the checkpoint for inspection and questioning by agents, according to a criminal complaint.

When the agent asked Wilhite whether she was a U.S. citizen, she replied: “‘Yes hunny’ and began to dance in the vehicle with the music volume extremely loud,” the complaint stated.

The agent then went to question one of the backseat passengers, according to Border Patrol.

“The backseat passenger took a bite of a piece of fried chicken and did not respond to the primary agent,” the complaint stated. “Wilhite interjected, ‘Yes, everyone is a U.S. citizen, baby.’”

The agent then again asked the passenger the same question.

“This time the passenger moved his head up and down as if he was nodding while taking another bite of chicken,” the complaint stated.

That’s when the agent directed the group for a secondary inspection where agents determined that the backseat passengers were not citizens and placed Wilhite and the front seat passenger, Tyrone Ervin, under arrest, Border Patrol stated in the complaint.

During an interview, Border Patrol says Wilhite said she was contacted by a person she knows as “Big Boy,” who asked her to smuggle three people through the checkpoint.

“Big Boy” provided Wilhite with addresses to pick up the people in San Juan and McAllen and then to drive to Houston where she would be paid $1,000, according to the complaint.

“Wilhite admitted to smuggling aliens on prior dates and had been caught each time,” the complaint stated.

Border Patrol says Ervin explained that Wilhite picked him up from the shelter where he lives and asked him to go on a “run” with him.

“Ervin stated to agents he knew when Wilhite stated she was going on a ‘run’ that she was referring to picking up and smuggling people,” the complaint stated. “Ervin stated he knew Wilhite had smuggled at least ten times and has bragged in the past about the amount of money she has received from those actions.”

Border Patrol said Ervin also explained that they picked up the fried chicken at a Church’s.

“Ervin stated they then drove to the checkpoint. Ervin stated before they arrived at the checkpoint Wilhite told the (people) they were getting close to the checkpoint, to act normal, and eat some fried chicken,” the complaint stated. “Ervin stated Wilhite’s dancing and loud music was part of her act to get through the checkpoint.”

He also admitted to being arrested three weeks ago for trying to smuggle someone.

Both Ervin and Wilhite made a first appearance Wednesday in Corpus Christi federal court in front of U.S. Magistrate Judge Mitchel Neurock on smuggling charges, court records indicate.