18-wheeler driver convicted of smuggling 73 people from six countries

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FILE PHOTO: Signage is seen at the United States Department of Justice headquarters in Washington, D.C.

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – A 24-year-old Mission man has pleaded guilty to illegally transporting non-U.S. citizens within the United States, announced U.S. Attorney Jennifer B. Lowery.

Leonardo Davila Jr. admitted to smuggling 73 people while driving an 18-wheeler.

On Feb. 8, Davila drove a tractor trailer into the Border Patrol (BP) checkpoint near Falfurrias. There, a K-9 soon alerted authorities to the presence of concealed humans. Upon a search of the trailer, law enforcement discovered dozens of undocumented individuals.

In the trailer were nationals of Ecuador, Guatemala, Honduras, Peru, Mexico and El Salvador. All were later determined to be present in the country illegally.

U.S. District Judge Drew B. Tipton will impose sentencing Aug. 24. At that time, Davila faces up to five years in federal prison and a possible $250,000 maximum fine.

He will remain in custody pending that hearing.

Homeland Security Investigations conducted the investigation with the assistance of BP. Assistant U.S. Attorney Patrick Overman is prosecuting the case.