One of three men who drove a truck carrying 37 suspected illegal immigrants that crashed near a Chesapeake Bay Bridge toll plaza Feb. 7 has pleaded guilty to transporting illegal aliens within the United States.
Israel Perez Herrera, 35, of Tacana, San Marcos Province, Guatemala, made the plea Tuesday before U.S. District Judge Andre M. Davis. Two other men, Hermelindo Velasquez Rivera, 18, of Hidalgo, Mexico, and Luis Alberto Hernandez Herrera, 22, of San Juan de Los Guadalajara, Mexico, pleaded guilty to the same charge earlier this month.
Each faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine, and they will be deported on completing their sentence, the U.S. attorney's office said. Sentencing is scheduled May 3.
According to a statement of facts filed with the court and the U.S. attorney's office, Perez Herrera rented a truck in Chandler, Ariz., for $1,018. Perez Herrera and Velasquez Rivera recruited the other immigrants, promising to drive them for a fee of between $300 and $500 each to Marydel on the Eastern Shore, where they were told they could find employment.
The group left Arizona Feb. 5 and the three men took turns driving, stopping only for gas. Nobody in the back of the truck was allowed to leave and "the conditions inside the vehicle were unspeakable," the statement of facts said.
The trip, which covered 2,000 miles in just two days, ended Feb. 7 at the Bay Bridge when the truck crashed into a passenger car at the toll booth.
Of the 37 immigrants, who come from Guatemala and Mexico, four already have been deported, approximately a dozen more have been ordered deported and will return to their countries this week, and the rest are awaiting deportation hearings, said Benedict J. Ferro, director of the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service in Maryland. With the exception of one person who posted bond, they are being held at a detention center in Salisbury.
"We hope this will serve as a deterrent to others who would place illegal workers at risk," Mr. Ferro said.
Pub Date: 4/11/96