Young soldiers admit to transporting undocumented citizens

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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 military men stationed at Fort Hood have entered guilty pleas to conspiring to transport undocumented aliens within the United States, announced Acting U.S. Attorney Jennifer B. Lowery.

Ralph Gregory Saint-Joie, 18, pleaded guilty today, while Emmanuel Oppongagyare, 21, entered his plea Aug. 11.

Saint-Joie has been identified as an active duty member of the U.S. Army while Oppongagyare is from the Pennsylvania National Guard. At the time of arrest, each noted they were stationed at Fort Hood.

On June 13, Oppongagyare and Saint-Joie attempted to go through the Border Patrol (BP) Checkpoint in Hebbronville wearing their army-issued uniforms. Upon inspection, authorities discovered two individuals hidden in the trunk who were determined to be in the country illegally. Authorities promptly took them and the soldiers into custody.

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At the time of his plea, Oppongagyare admitted a person he met through Saint-Joie recruited him to pick up the aliens from McAllen and drive them to San Antonio. They expected to be paid once they arrived the destination.

The man who hired them had instructed the soldiers to wear their Army-issued uniforms to avoid questioning at the checkpoint.

The two Mexican nationals hidden in the vehicle admitted to paying Oppongagyare and Saint-Joie a fee in exchange for passage into the United States. They also identified Oppongagyare and Saint-Joie as the driver and the passenger, respectively, of that vehicle.

U.S. District Judge Diana Saldana accepted the plea and will set sentencing for a later date. At that time, Oppongagyare and Saint-Joie face up to 10 years in prison and a possible $250,000 maximum fine. They were permitted release upon posting bond. Oppongagyare remains in custody, while Saint-Joie is on bond pending that hearing.  

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Homeland Security Investigations and BP conducted the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Brian Bajew is prosecuting the case.

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