National Guardsmen nabbed as coyotes

Doing the job that some Americans will do.

A trio of National Guard soldiers assigned to help stop illegal immigration in South Texas instead ran an immigrant smuggling operation using cell phone text messages, according to court records filed Monday by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Laredo.

In a series of text messages uncovered by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents after Pfc. Jose Rodrigo Torres was arrested on Thursday, the three soldiers allegedly negotiated the details, price and number of people who would be smuggled north, the complaint said.

“tell them ill only do 1 run @ no more than 20 people @ $150 a person and i want 2 leave @ 1930 hrs and ill go 2 San Anto if they want,” Torres typed to Sgt. Clarence Hodge Jr. hours before Torres was arrested along Interstate 35 near Cotulla, Texas, about 68 miles north of the border, according to the complaint.

A message later that day from Sgt. Julio Cesar Pacheco instructed Torres that a trip was a go, with a promised payment of $3,500 for the delivery of 24 illegal immigrants.

“24 will b tuff 2 fit but ill try,” Torres wrote in response, the complaint said.

The 24 immigrants, at least five of whom were Mexican nationals, did fit in the van that was waved through a Border Patrol checkpoint before later being stopped along the highway.


Investigators say Hodge pointed to Pacheco, 26, of Laredo, as the man who recruited and paid him. Hodge told investigators he had been paid for helping smuggle a load of immigrants in May but the men had not worked out payment for the most recent load.

Pacheco, in an interview a year ago with The Associated Press when he was first deployed to the border, said he was eager for the assignment in his hometown of Laredo.

“That’s why we’re here, to help them out,” said Pacheco, who has served in Iraq and Europe. “I’m very lucky because they’re (fellow soldiers in Europe) going back to Iraq and I get to serve here in my hometown.”

Evidently they were there to help themselves out with a little side action.