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CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — A South Texas man was ordered to federal prison Sept. 26 for illegally transporting 70 noncitizens in a locked tractor-trailer. Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Corpus Christi and the U.S. Border Patrol conducted the investigation that led to the conviction and sentencing.
Thomas Taylor Charlton, a 60-year-old resident of Mission, was sentenced Sept. 26 in the Southern District of Texas to 51 months in federal prison to be immediately followed by three years of supervised release. Charlton pleaded guilty to the charges on May 2.
On July 10, 2022, Charlton arrived at the Javier Vega Jr. Border Patrol checkpoint. He claimed he was hauling chili peppers, but a K-9 alerted officials to the locked trailer. After using bolt cutters to remove the lock, authorities discovered 70 illegally present noncitizens concealed behind pallets of produce in the refrigerated portion of the trailer. They also found hatchets in the trailer, the trailer’s key in the cab, and handheld walkie-talkies in the trailer and cab.
Before imposing Charlton’s sentence, the court heard additional evidence regarding his criminal history, which includes a conviction for aggravated battery.
Charlton will remain in custody pending transfer to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near future.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Liesel Roscher and Patrick Overman prosecuted the case.
For more news and information on HSI’s efforts to aggressively investigate human smuggling in Southeast Texas, follow us on X, formerly known as Twitter, @HSIHouston.
HSI is the principal investigative arm of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), responsible for investigating transnational crime and threats, specifically those criminal organizations that exploit the global infrastructure through which international trade, travel, and finance move. HSI’s workforce of more than 8,700 employees consists of more than 6,000 special agents assigned to 237 cities throughout the United States, and 93 overseas locations in 56 countries. HSI’s international presence represents DHS’ largest investigative law enforcement presence abroad and one of the largest international footprints in U.S. law enforcement.