A federal judge sentenced a 27-year-old Tennessee man to federal prison for smuggling three illegal immigrants. The man put his “human cargo” in circumstances that involved life-threatening conditions by packing them inside wooden crates.
Zachery Steven Blizzard pleaded guilty to smuggling the foreign nationals, including one of which was a minor, in wooden boxes in the back of his work van.
Federal authorities discovered the illegal human cargo when Blizzard tied to transport the illegal immigrants through a U.S. Border Patrol Checkpoint on Highway 59 about 15 miles of Freer, Texas, near Laredo. A service canine alerted on the rear of the utility van, according to information obtained by Breitbart Texas from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Agents with ICE Homeland Security Investigations led the investigation into the smuggling operation.
U.S. Border Patrol agents opened the door of the van and saw two custom-made wooden boxes along the sides of the van.
Agents conducted a secondary inspection and discovered three individuals inside of the larger wooden box. The agents conducted an immigration query and determined that all three individuals were determined in the country illegally.
The agents arrested Blizzard and the three foreign nationals.
Officials gave Blizzard his Miranda Warnings, but he waived his rights and agreed to talk to HIS special agents without a lawyer being present.
Blizzard told investigators he needed the money, so he agreed to smuggle the individuals across the border. He was not told how much he was going to be paid, but it was to be calculated based upon each person smuggled.
One of the foreign nationals admitted to agents that they paid smugglers to be brought into the county. That person was taken to an unknown location and loaded into the utility van. He said Blizzard told him to get into the homemade wooded compartment.
On Friday, U.S. District Court Judge Hilda G. Tagle from the Southern District of Texas (Houston) sentenced Blizzard to the prison time. The sentence included three years of supervised release after he serves the prison time.
“This case is a stark reminder of just how callous and brutal human smugglers can be when it comes to exploiting individuals for money,” said Shane Folden, Special Agent in Charge, Homeland Security Investigations (HIS) in San Antonio. “This human smuggler used wooden boxes to transport his human cargo. It clearly illustrates how human smugglers disregard the value of life.”
According to a statement obtained from ICE by Breitbart Texas, the Tennessee man is one of eight smugglers who has tried to transport illegal immigrants in wooden boxes since April of 2017.
ICE officials say that some of these cases included circumstances where the boxes were nailed or screwed shut when temperatures inside the vehicle were greater than 100 degrees. There have also been boxes built into the back of vehicles.
Bob Price serves as associate editor and senior political news contributor for Breitbart Texas. He is a founding member of the Breitbart Texas team. Follow him on Twitter @BobPriceBBTX, Gab, and Facebook.