Authorities have charged three people, including a former U.S. Border Patrol (BP) officer, for allegedly conspiring to hire undocumented individuals as commercial drivers for their trucking company.

Former BP officer Ricardo Gonzalez, 39, his wife, Natalia Gonzalez, 35, and Alex Lopez, 33, were arrested on November 17 and charged for their roles in a conspiracy to hire illegal aliens by fraudulently obtaining immigration permits, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Texas.

All three defendants were in charge of day-to-day operations at Laredo-based trucking company Gonmor Inc.

According to the indictment, starting in February of 2017, the trio recruited and hired undocumented workers as truck drivers and paid them less due to their citizenship status.

The scheme to hire the workers involved a letter from a fictitious Mexican trucking company which was used in the process of helping them to obtain an I-94 permit, which allows a visitor to travel farther than 25 miles from the border and remain in the United States for more than 30 days. The letter stated that the individual was a truck driver employed by the fictitious company and requested that the person receive an I-94 permit so that he could travel into the United States.

Authorities say that the defendants instructed undocumented individuals to present the letter to authorities at a port of entry in Laredo to apply for the permit. When the individual received the permit, the co-conspirators allegedly assigned jobs to the new employee to transport legitimate cargo throughout the United States.

The indictment alleges that Gonzalez used his knowledge and experience from his time as a BP agent help workers obtain the I-94 permits.

If convicted, each defendant faces up to five years for the conspiracy to fraudulently obtain immigration permits and up to 10 years each for the conspiracy to encourage or induce an alien to remain in the United States and conspiracy to harbor/shield an alien from detection.

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