Teenage soldier, National Guard member admit to smuggling undocumented immigrants

U.S. and World

EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) — A soldier and guardsman hid Mexican nationals in their trunk and attempted to smuggle them past a Border Patrol checkpoint in South Texas.

The military men, both stationed at Fort Hood, admitted to conspiring to transport undocumented aliens, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Texas announced Thursday.

Ralph Gregory Saint-Joie, an active duty member of the U.S. Army, pleaded guilty on Thursday. Emmanuel Oppongagyare, a member of the Pennsylvania National Guard, entered his plea on Wednesday.

Oppongagyare, 21, said a person he met through Saint-Joie recruited him to pick up the undocumented immigrants in McAllen and drive them to San Antonio, adding that he’d get paid once they arrived.

On June 13, Oppongagyare and Saint-Joie, 18, were in their military-issued uniforms when pulled up to the Border Patrol checkpoint in Hebbronville, Texas. Prosecutors said the man who hired them had instructed the soldiers to wear their uniforms to avoid questioning at the checkpoint.

However, border agents inspected the vehicle and discovered two individuals in the country illegally in the trunk.

The migrants paid Oppongagyare and Saint-Joie to bring them into the country, they told investigators. They also identified Oppongagyare as the driver and Saint-Joie passenger, a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.

Oppongagyare and Saint-Joie face up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. They will learn their sentence at a later date. Oppongagyare remains in custody, while Saint-Joie is out on bond.

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