A 35-year-old Brownsville man has been sentenced to 30 months in federal prison after pleading guilty to a human smuggling charge in which he admitted to harboring 200 immigrants — some at a local hotel and some at his home.
Santos De Leon-Cardenas told authorities he was being paid $100 for each immigrant he harbored, according to his plea agreement with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Texas.
According to a fact summary sheet on De Leon-Cardenas, on March 22, U.S. Border Patrol agents and the Cameron County Precinct 2 Constable’s Office received information that there was smuggling activity going on at the Rose Garden Inn.
When authorities arrived at the location, they found 57 immigrants being held in one room and another room where five unaccompanied minor children were being held, the summary sheet states.
Authorities said when they searched one of the rooms they observed insects throughout it, buckets full of trash and mold spores growing in the bathroom. Human waste was also found on numerous surfaces inside the room, the fact sheet states. There was also no furniture in the room.
The officers questioned all 57 immigrants and all said they were not U.S. citizens and did not have permission to legally stay in the country.
One of the immigrants stated he had paid $6,500 to be smuggled across the border, authorities said. He said after being smuggled he was told he would “be harbored until it was safe for him to be transported to his final destination within the United States,” the fact sheet states.
The immigrant said because they were not provided with adequate sleep space, they would have to take turns sleeping, according to authorities. They also had inadequate restroom facilities and were kept in “extremely hot conditions,” the fact sheet states.
According to authorities, De Leon-Cardenas said he had held the 57 immigrants in the hotel room for about two months — and he also admitted that he had harbored another 200 immigrants at his home as well including the 57.
He appeared Sept. 9 before U.S. District Judge Fernando Rodriguez Jr., who sentenced him to 30 months in prison that will be immediately followed by three years supervised release.
De-Leon Cardenas will remain in custody pending transfer to a U.S. Bureau of Prison facility to be determined soon.