2 soldiers charged with attempting to smuggle noncitizens

Jacumba CA - NOVEMBER 27: United States international wall with Mexico and Border Patrol vehicle in the distance on November 27 2017 in Jacumba CA USA.

LAREDO, Texas — Two men assigned to Fort Hood, Texas, were charged in federal court Tuesday of attempting to smuggle two Mexican noncitizens to San Antonio, Texas.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and U.S. Border Patrol are investigating this case.

Emmanuel Oppongagyare, 20, and Ralph Gregory Saint-Joie, 18, were charged with human smuggling. Saint-Joie is an active duty member of the U.S. Army, while Oppongagyare is a member of the Pennsylvania National Guard. Both men are stationed at Fort Hood.

According to the charges, on June 13, Oppongagyare approached the Hebbronville Border Patrol Checkpoint driving a sedan. Saint-Joie was allegedly riding as passenger. Both men were wearing their military uniforms. During primary inspection, Oppongagyare allegedly told authorities they were traveling from Zapata, Texas, to San Antonio.

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Border Patrol agents referred them to secondary inspection, where agents discovered two Mexican noncitizens in the trunk of the vehicle.

The complaint alleges that Oppongagyare and Saint-Joie expected to receive an undetermined amount of money to pick up the individuals in McAllen and transport them to San Antonio. They were allegedly told to wear their U.S. Army uniforms in order to avoid questioning from authorities.

If convicted, Oppongagyare and Saint-Joie face up to 10 years in federal prison and a possible $250,000 maximum fine.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Brian Bajew, Southern District of Texas, is prosecuting the case.

A criminal complaint is a formal accusation of criminal conduct, not evidence.

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A defendant is presumed innocent unless convicted through due process of law.

HSI is the principal investigative arm of ICE 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 over 10,400 employees consists of more than 7,100 special agents assigned to 220 cities throughout the United States, and 80 overseas locations in 53 countries. HSI’s international presence represents DHS’s largest investigative law enforcement presence abroad and one of the largest international footprints in U.S. law enforcement.