Three Ft. Hood Soldiers and Another Charged in Alien Transporting Conspiracy

Three Ft. Hood soldiers have been arrested in an ongoing investigation related to the transporting and harboring of illegal aliens, announced U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson along with Special Agent in Charge Janice Ayala of Homeland Security Investigations in San Antonio.

“HSI is dedicated to working closely with its law enforcement partners in all arenas in pursuit of identifying, arresting and prosecuting individuals involved in human smuggling, regardless of their position.” said Ayala. “Today’s arrests exemplify the high level of collaboration between HSI and its partners in investigating these cases.”

The indictment charges Eric Alexander Rodriguez, 20, Brandon Troy Robbins, 20, and Christopher David Wix, 21, all active duty soldiers stationed at Ft. Hood. Also named in the indictment is Arnoldo Gracia, 45, an alleged alien smuggler from the Harlingen area.

The seven-count indictment was returned Tuesday, Oct. 7, and fully unsealed today upon the arrests of Rodriguez, Robbins and Wix at Ft. Hood in Killeen. Gracia was arrested yesterday in Harlingen. He made his initial appearance today before U.S. Magistrate Judge Ignacio Torteya and was ordered to remain in custody pending a hearing set for Oct. 14. The remaining defendants are expected to make an initial appearance tomorrow in Waco before U.S. Magistrate Judge Jeffrey C. Manske. The indictment alleges one count of conspiracy to transport and harbor aliens, and six counts of transporting aliens.

Rodriguez, of Odem, was initially arrested On Sept. 11, after allegedly trying to smuggle two undocumented aliens pass the immigration checkpoint in Sarita. He made an initial appearance Sept. 17, at which time a Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) agent testified that Rodriguez had arrived at the checkpoint driving a Chevrolet truck dressed in his military uniform. When agents searched the rear seat area of the truck, two undocumented aliens were allegedly found hidden under a bed sheet and military jacket which displayed the name tag of Rodriguez.

The indictment also charges two earlier incidents which allegedly occurred in a similar manner as that of the Sept. 11 attempt involving Rodriguez. Robbins, is charged with transporting two aliens on April 13, while Wix is charged with transporting two aliens on June 21. Gracia is alleged to be a member of the smuggling conspiracy and charged with aiding and abetting the three Ft. Hood soldiers in commission of the offenses.

If convicted, each faces up to 10 years in federal prison and a possible $250,000 fine.

HSI investigated with the assistance of Customs and Border Protection and U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command. Assistant U.S. Attorney Oscar Ponce is prosecuting the case.