Driver charged with transporting 22 illegal aliens in Texas

| 4/13/2010

A New Jersey truck driver has been charged with attempting to transport 22 illegal aliens from Mexico in his truck trailer.

Benjamin Purnell, 40, of Bayonne, NJ, was arrested on Feb. 25 after border agents found 22 Mexicans hidden among a legitimate load in Purnell’s trailer.

“Purnell stated he had been recruited by an Hispanic male to transport undocumented aliens for $1,300 per undocumented alien to San Antonio, TX,” court documents state.

The aliens apparently hopped onto the truck on U.S. soil, but before Purnell’s truck crossed through the United States Border Patrol Checkpoint on Interstate 35 in Laredo, TX.

Two of the passengers found in Purnell’s trailer told investigators they had crossed a river and entered the U.S. on Feb. 23 before being hidden at a Laredo motel. On Feb. 25, the witnesses told investigators they were picked up and delivered to an area where they were placed in a truck trailer by a woman they didn’t know.

The day he was arrested, Purnell admitted that the undocumented aliens had illegally entered the country, the court documents state. He has since pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Purnell faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in jail and a $250,000 fine.

Jury selection for his trial is scheduled for May.

– By Charlie Morasch, staff writer