A Texas man admitted to trying to smuggle two people into the United States in a coffin draped with an American flag — like those that carry soldiers killed in combat — the Justice Department said Wednesday.
The suspect, 33-year-old Zachary Blood, was caught when in October he drove a van “modified to transport caskets” to a checkpoint near the US-Mexico border in Texas, federal prosecutor Jennifer Lowery’s office said in a statement.
When asked by agents what he was transporting, Blood responded “dead guy, Navy guy,” according to the statement.
“However, the coffin was in poor condition and the American flag was taped to the top with packing tape,” the Justice Department said.
Upon further inspection, the agents discovered two living people, who the Department said were Mexican nationals “unlawfully present within the United States,” in the coffin.
The two men admitted to having crossed the Rio Grande river into the United States and paying a man to take them to the Texas city of San Antonio.
Blood faces up to five years in prison and a maximum fine of $250,000.
The United States recorded nearly two million migrant apprehensions for illegal entry into the country along its southern border with Mexico in 2021, according to official statistics.
Migrant arrivals to the United States declined markedly during the initial phase of the Covid-19 pandemic but began to pick up later in 2020, before surging since President Joe Biden took office in January last year.
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