Man gets 18 months in human smuggling case

McALLEN — All he had to do was drop off a group of undocumented immigrants at a local carwash and he would receive a nice payday.

But a call from a vigilant citizen led U.S. Border Patrol agents to the group of undocumented migrants and resulted Monday in a nearly two-year prison sentence for the 35-year-old man accused of transporting them in his pickup truck.

U.S. District Judge Randy Crane sentenced Demencio Venecia to 18 months in federal prison with 3 years of supervised release during a hearing related to Venecia’s arrest on Nov. 3 2016, when U.S. Border Patrol agents encountered Venecia, a U.S. citizen, attempting to transport a group of 8 undocumented migrants in La Grulla, court records show.

Venecia was ready to earn a large amount of cash — $4,500 — but before he could count his windfall agents stopped Venecia and detained the group of 8 people he had with him, court records show.

At around 9:30 a.m. that November day a concerned citizen alerted border patrol agents to a pickup truck at the intersection of Lazaro Solis Street and El Sol Drive.

A short time later an agent found Venecia and identified at least five people attempting to hide in the bed of his pickup truck, while another three hid in the nearby brush, according to the criminal complaint.

Venecia, who admitted to smuggling and transporting undocumented migrants since 2012, said he received a call from an unidentified man from Mexico who gave him instructions on where to find the group of migrants, the complaint states.

“Venecia stated he knew the subjects that he was going to pick up were in fact illegal aliens and that he had been transporting illegal aliens for about four years now,” according to the criminal complaint.

Agents also spoke with a handful of the migrants, who all admitted to being in the country without legal authorization.

One woman from El Salvador who was headed to Boston Massachusetts said she was told to wait near the carwash and await a whistle from the driver of a pickup truck that would drive her.

She said she agreed to pay $8,000 once she arrived in Boston, according to the complaint.

Last December, as part of his plea agreement, Venecia pleaded guilty to one of the three counts of bringing in and harboring illegal aliens. In exchange, the government dismissed the other two counts, court records show.