Illegal Aliens + Texas National Guardsmen = Federal Prison Sentence!

The sentencing phase of the conviction of three Texas National Guardsmen convicted of conspiracy to transport illegal aliens has begun with Clarence Hodge, Jr., age 36, of Fort Worth, Texas being sentenced to 36 months in federal prison. Also sentenced was Jerry Zuniga, age 29, of Laredo, Texas.

It seems that Hodge, a sergeant in the Texas National Guard, was assigned to the Texas National Guard Operation Jumpstart, a presidential initiative designed to support the U. S. Border Patrol along the southern border. Their role – detection and apprehension of undocumented aliens entering the country.

NOTICE: The role of the convicted was detection and apprehension – not Transportation! Perhaps Hodge and his buddies were confused about the mission or they saw an opportunity and made the wrong choices.

According to a news release from the US Attorney’s office: Hodge and Zuniga, along with co-defendant guardsmen, Jose Rodrigo Torres and Julio Cesar Pacheco, pleaded guilty in August 2007 to conspiracy to transport illegal aliens on various dates between May 2007 through June 7, 2007. Hodge admitted to his involvement with Torres and Pacheco in what Judge Kazen termed a “sophisticated” smuggling operation uncovered June 7, 2007, when Torres was arrested having just driven through the IH-35 Border Patrol checkpoint north of Laredo in a passenger van leased to the Texas Army National Guard carrying 24 undocumented aliens.

Subsequent investigation revealed the smuggling operation began with the recruitment of Hodge and Torres by Pacheco in the movement of aliens through the IH-35 checkpoint, where all three guardsmen were assigned to assist Border Patrol agents. After Pacheco instructed Torres when the aliens were ready to be picked up for transport from a residence in Laredo, Torres would follow instructions received via cellular telephone messaging and deliver the aliens to specified areas north of Laredo and the checkpoint. Torres picked up the aliens from Zuniga’s residence.

During each of the smuggling events, Hodge would pretend to conduct National Guardsmen business with Torres whenever Torres approached the service lane of the checkpoint driving a van with undocumented aliens, thus facilitating the van’s passage through the checkpoint without an immigration inspection. Hodge also assisted in acquiring the National Guard leased-van for Torres to transport undocumented aliens June 7, 2007. In addition to using his residence to harbor aliens prior to transport, Zuniga drove a counter-surveillance vehicle along IH-35 and directed guardsman Torres to the drop off location north of the checkpoint.

Every choice has a consequence. It is clear in this case that the choices made were well thought out. There is little doubt that the crime was a mistake. As part of the sentencing, Judge Kazen took into account Hodge’s abuse of his position of trust in effecting the successful undetected passage of more than one hundred aliens through the checkpoint.

As an ethics speaker, (www.chuckgallagher.com), it is clear that ethical choices were not made. The question that lingers is why? According to the Star-Telegram in Fort Worth, the payoff was an expected $3,000 per trip. That’s all – $3,000 per trip? Speaking from experience there is nothing worth three years in federal prison. Perhaps when Hodge is released he will use this “learning opportunity” for something good.

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