Man Admits He Tried to Smuggle 2 Men Into US Into a Coffin

A Texas man pleaded guilty on Tuesday to attempting to smuggle two men from Mexico into the country in a flag-draped coffin, a crime that federal prosecutors say was uncovered by two employees of the US Border Patrol who happened to be military veterans and sensed something was wrong.

The man, Zachary Taylor Blood, 33, of Galveston, arrived at a Border Patrol immigration checkpoint in a gray Dodge Caravan around noon on October 26 near Encino, Texas, about 60 miles from the US-Mexico border, according to a criminal complaint. .

When asked by an officer what he was carrying in the van, Mr. Blood replied, “A dead guy, a Navy guy,” according to the complaint.

The officer, who is an army veteran, inspected the van and ‘immediately noticed a rusty, dented coffin’ and saw that an American flag had been ‘roughly taped’ to the coffin, reinforced with tape clear wrapper and a zip tie on one corner, the complaint says.

A dog handler, who is also a veteran, was asked to inspect the van and, after noticing the tape and the condition of the coffin, he “knew this was not standard protocol for the funeral procession. of a veteran,” the complaint said.

Upon further inspection, officers found two men – both alive – inside the coffin, and the men admitted to being in the United States illegally, according to the complaint.

One of the men found in the coffin told authorities he had agreed to pay a total of $6,000 to reach San Antonio, according to the complaint. He said he had already paid $2,000 to cross the Rio Grande.

The man said he was joined in the coffin by his cousin, according to the complaint. He said that while they were inside the coffin they could only open it slightly and that it was hot and difficult to breathe inside, according to the complaint. The two men were retained as material witnesses.

Simon Purnell, a lawyer representing Mr Blood, said that while smuggling cases are “extremely common” in the Southern District of Texas, “I have never come across this method of smuggling foreigners in the past. “.

The methods used to smuggle people across the US-Mexico border vary, Purnell said. Sometimes it is a person and a driver in a car; other times dozens of people are crammed into tractor-trailers, he said.

Last year, at least 10 people died after a van carrying more than two dozen passengers believed to be migrants crashed in South Texas. In 2017, nearly 30 people were hospitalized and 10 died after they were found in a stuffy tractor-trailer in Texas.

“There are also instances where extraterrestrials have hid in vehicles without the knowledge of the driver,” Mr Purnell said.

Mr. Blood was arrested on October 26 and has been in custody ever since, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Texas. He could face up to five years in federal prison and a fine of up to $250,000 when convicted on May 11 in U.S. District Court in Corpus Christi, Texas, prosecutors said.

A spokesperson for U.S. Customs and Border Protection did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday evening.