MISSION, Texas (ValleyCentral) – A Mission resident has been ordered to federal prison following his conviction of transporting 70 undocumented people in a trailer, the U.S. Attorney’s Office announced.

Thomas Taylor Charlton, 60, will serve over four years in federal prison for locking 70 undocumented people in a trailer with only hatchets to exit.

On July 10, 2022, Charlton arrived in a tractor-trailer at the Sarita Border Patrol checkpoint.

According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Charlton claimed he was hauling chili peppers, but a K-9 alerted to the trailer.

Law enforcement used bolt cutters to remove the lock and gain access to the trailer.

Inside, authorities found hatchets and discovered 70 undocumented people concealed behind produce in the locked refrigerated portion of the vehicle.

Border Patrol agents continued the search and found a handheld walkie-talkie in the trailer and cabin of the tractor.

According to U.S. Attorney Alamdar S. Hamdani, both walkie-talkie devices were on the same frequency, allowing communication between the tractor and trailer.

The key to the trailer was also found in the cab, the U.S. Attorney added.

U.S. District Judge David S. Morales ordered Charlton to serve four years in federal prison.

Charlton will remain in custody pending transfer to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility.