A Texas man has pleaded guilty to attempted smuggling after border authorities found two live Mexican men in a flag-draped coffin.
The Department of Justice says Zachary Taylor Blood, 33, drove his van to a Border Patrol checkpoint near Falfurrias, Texas on 26 October. Border officials were suspicious when Mr Blood unveiled a large, shoddy casket with an American flag stuck to it with packing tape.
“Authorities observed a coffin in the back of the van and asked what he was transporting,” recounted the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Texas. “He replied ‘Dead guy, Navy guy.’”
Two border agents, both veterans, sensed something was amiss.
“Law enforcement then referred him to secondary inspection,” the US Attorney’s office said. “There, they discovered two Mexican nationals, both unlawfully present within the United States, concealed inside the coffin.”
When officials questioned them, the two Mexicans admitted they’d paid a smuggler to bring them to San Antonio. After crossing the Rio Grande, they met Mr Blood in a parking lot, where he told them to climb into the coffin.
Mr Blood, a native of Galveston, Texas, has pleaded guilty to one count of alien smuggling. He will be sentenced on 11 May, and could face up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
A lawyer for Mr Blood, Simon Purnell, said he could not comment in detail on the case, but confirmed that his client has pleaded guilty and “has accepted responsibility for his role in this offense.”
“This case, while interesting in the manner the aliens were being transported, is unfortunately a common occurrence in our division of the Southern District of Texas,” Mr Purnell told The Independent.