A federal judge in South Texas sentenced a human smuggler to 48 months in prison after he transported five migrants trapped inside two jet skis. Falfurrias Station Border Patrol agents discovered the migrants during an inspection at a checkpoint in Brooks County.
U.S. District Court Judge David Morales sentenced 26-year-old Fernando Cerda, Jr. to 48 months in federal prison for a failed human smuggling attempt that took place in April. Border Patrol agents assigned to the Falfurrias Immigration Checkpoint on U.S. Highway 281 in Brooks County found five migrants locked inside two jet skis being towed by Cerda.
Rio Grande Valley Sector Chief Patrol Agent Gloria Chavez posted photos of the incident on X showing the search of the jet skis. The agents searched the jet skis after a K-9 alerted to the possible presence of humans or drugs.
#TBT to April 2023, Falfurrias agents discovered 5 subjects hidden in 2 jet skis. The smuggler was recently prosecuted & ordered to serve 48 months in U.S. Federal prison followed by 3 years of supervised release. Another well-earned victory against human smuggling organizations! pic.twitter.com/t7lE516Bnz
— Chief Patrol Agent Gloria I. Chavez (@USBPChiefRGV) October 12, 2023
During an interview with Cerda, the now-convicted human smuggler admitted to the agents that he knew the migrants were locked inside the jet skis and that he knew they were illegally present in the U.S., according to court documents obtained by Breitbart Texas. Cerda told the agent he was to be paid an undetermined amount of money to haul the migrants to Houston.
The agents learned that Cerda received his instructions from a man who lives in Mexico named “Cabeza,” whom he met Cabeza in prison, and that was the only name he knew.
One of the migrants told the agents that she had crossed the border illegally approximately eight days before the smuggling attempt. She crossed with five other migrants who were all transported to a “warehouse” where they awaited transportation into the U.S. interior. The warehouse held approximately 20 other migrants, the witness stated.
She was eventually moved to a location where she observed some men taking two jet skis apart. She and the other four migrants were ordered to climb inside the jet skis. The human smugglers re-assembled the jet skis, trapping the migrants inside with no means of escape.
She said they were given water and could breathe but that she was afraid for her life as they had no means of getting out of the jet skis in the event of a crash or being abandoned. The woman told the agents her final destination was the state of Maryland, court documents stated.
In addition to the prison term of 48 months, Cerda will face an additional three years of supervised release.