LAREDO, Texas (ValleyCentral) — A former U.S. Border Patrol agent, his wife and a Laredo man were arrested Thursday and accused by authorities of conspiring to hire undocumented migrants as truck drivers.
Ricardo Gonzalez, 39; his wife, Natalia Gonzalez, 35; and Alex Lopez, 33, were responsible for the day-to-day operations of Gonmor Inc., a commercial trucking company in Laredo, according to a federal indictment.
Since February 2017, the trio had been recruiting and hiring undocumented individuals to work as commercial truck drivers, a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Southern District of Texas stated.
The alleged conspirators were aware that the people they hired were not legally allowed to work in the United States and prepared paperwork so the migrants could obtain an I-94 permit, authorities said. An I-94 permit allows a visitor to travel farther than 25 miles from the border and remain in the United States for more than 30 days.
According to the US Attorney’s Office, the paperwork included a letter from a fake Mexican trucking company and stated the undocumented migrant was employed by the company as a truck driver.
Authorities say the three defendants instructed migrants to present the letter to authorities at a port of entry in Laredo to apply for the permit. When the migrant received the permit, the co-conspirators assigned jobs to the new employee to transport legitimate cargo throughout the United States, prosecutors allege.
The three also paid the undocumented migrants less because of their lack of citizenship status, the document states.
Ricardo Gonzalez, Natalia Gonzalez, and Lopez are expected to appear before a judge at 10 a.m. Friday. If convicted, each faces up to five years for the conspiracy to fraudulently obtain immigration permits and up to 10 years each for the conspiracy to encourage or induce an alien to remain in the United States and conspiracy to harbor/shield an alien from detection.