Man sentenced for human smuggling after traffic stop on I-59

Man sentenced for human smuggling after traffic stop on I-59
Vincente Manuel Ruiz, 37, of Modesto, California, was convicted of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute 100 grams or more of heroin. (Photo source: WDAM archive)

Gulfport, MS (WDAM) - A Honduran man will spend the next 21 months behind bars for an alleged plan to illegally smuggle immigrants to the U.S. after he was stopped for speeding in the Pine Belt.

Emerson Isaac Hernandez-Turcios, 26, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Sul Ozerden to 21 months in federal prison followed by one year of supervised release for conspiracy to transport illegal aliens within the United States last week. Hernandez-Turcios was also ordered to pay a $5,000 fine. He had pleaded guilty on January 5, 2018, for the crime in Gulfport.

According to the U.S. Attorney's Office Southern District of Mississippi, Hernandez-Turcios will face deportation after serving time for the felony conviction. He has been in the United States legally as a Legal Permanent Resident.

On November 5, 2017, a Honda CRV, driven by Hernandez-Turcios, was stopped by a Pearl River County Sheriff's Deputy on Interstate-59 in Pearl River County for speeding, according to a press release. During the stop, a deputy observed there were six people, including Hernandez-Turcios, in the SUV. The deputy then found three more people covered in the cargo area of the SUV, bringing the total people in the car to nine.

Officials said Hernandez-Turcios could not identify his passengers and the deputy could not communicate with the passengers due to a language barrier.

Suspecting human smuggling, the deputy contacted the Department of Homeland Security and a special agent with Homeland Security Investigations was dispatched. A Mississippi Highway Patrol State Trooper also provided assistance.

The vehicle occupants were taken to the Pearl River County Jail and, ultimately, all of the passengers were determined to be immigrants being illegally smuggled within the United States.

The case was investigated by Homeland Security Investigations, the Pearl River County Sheriff's Department, and the Mississippi Highway Patrol. It was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Stan Harris.