Texas man pleads guilty to smuggling migrants in coffin
Zachary Taylor Blood, a Texas native, has pleaded guilty to one count of alien smuggling after his plan to transport two Mexican migrants to the city of San Antonio was thwarted by US Border Patrol (BP) officials at the internal checkpoint around 70 miles north of the US-Mexico border.
The border agents spotted a coffin draped in an American flag in the back of Blood’s van as he was passing through a checkpoint near the city of Falfurrias. While Blood told the agents that he was taking a “dead Navy guy” to his final resting place, the fact that the coffin was in “poor condition” and had the flag “taped to the top with packing tape” prompted the agents to suspect foul play.
Upon a brief inspection of the coffin, the agents discovered two illegal migrants crammed inside, the US Department of Justice said in a statement on Tuesday. One of them told the officials that he paid as much as $6,000 to a smuggler to bring him and his cousin into the US, and that Blood was only part of the elaborate plot. The migrants were first helped to cross the river to the US and then were introduced to Blood in a parking lot, who told them to get inside the coffin in his car for a long drive further north.
The incident took place on October 26, 2021, and Blood – who now faces up to five years behind bars – has remained in custody ever since. He is set to appear before a court for sentencing on May 11.
Texas has struggled to stem the record flow of undocumented migrants towards its border from Mexico. Texas Governor Greg Abbott launched his own border crackdown, while accusing the Biden administration of not doing enough to enforce the law. Operation Lone Star, which was launched by the governor to stop the illegal trafficking of people, was ruled unconstitutional by County District Court Judge Jan Soifer earlier this month.