By Joe Beck -- firstname.lastname@example.org
A man accused of carrying more than a dozen illegal immigrants in a van on Interstate 81 pleaded guilty Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Harrisonburg to one count of transporting and moving aliens.
Luis Vendrell-Morel is scheduled to be sentenced on Aug. 27 before U.S. District Judge Michael Urbanski. Vendrell-Morel could receive a sentence of up to ten years in prison.
The affidavit against Vendrell-Morel states that Virginia State Police contacted Homeland Security Investigations with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security on April 13 about a 2006 Ford Econoline that was stopped on I-81 for tinted windows.
The affidavit states that federal agents arrived at the scene to find 19 people who had been passengers in the van. The driver of the van was in a state patrol car, according to the affidavit.
"The driver, Luis Vendrell-Morel, indicated he was Puerto Rican, had a suspended (New York) driver's license and told the trooper he was being paid $500 to transport the van and people from Texas to Baltimore," the affidavit states.
After Vendrell-Morel and his passengers were transported to the Harrisonburg offices of the Department of Homeland Security, agents there "determined that (none) of the occupants was lawfully present in the United States," the affidavit states, adding that one was a 17-year-old male.
The affidavit states that Vendrell-Morel knew that all of the passengers were illegal immigrants and that some were from El Salvador.
The affidavit also states that illegal immigrants smuggled into the United States tend to carry few belongings.
"When this group was encountered, the agents on the scene observed that the occupants had very little or no property on them," the affidavit states. "This is not the case for individuals who are legally present in the United States and are simply traveling to distant cities or relocating."