The Monitor, McAllen, Texas
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A federal judge on Friday sentenced a 33-year-old man who admitted to trying to smuggle two cousins from Mexico in a flag-draped “pseudo hearse” through the Falfurrias checkpoint to eight months in prison, court records indicate.
Zachary Taylor Blood entered a guilty plea to harboring people in the country illegally in late January. In exchange for his guilty plea, prosecutors moved to dismiss a second harboring charge, which U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos granted during the sentencing hearing, court records show.
Border Patrol arrested Blood on Oct. 26, 2021, after a Border Patrol agent, who is a military veteran, became suspicious of a flag-draped “rusty and dented coffin” inside the “pseudo hearse” that arrived at the checkpoint at around 12:05 p.m. that day, according to a criminal complaint.
The agent asked Blood what he had in his vehicle to which Blood said: “Dead guy, Navy guy.”
The complaint said the agent noted that the American flag was taped to the coffin with clear packaging tape which was also zip-tied to one corner.
Meanwhile, another agent who was also a veteran asked for consent to search the vehicle while his canine simultaneously alerted to the vehicle, according to the complaint, which also notes both agents knew from prior experience that the manner in which Blood transported the coffin is not standard protocol for military funeral processions.
During a secondary inspection, agents found the cousins who said they were trying to get to San Antonio. The men also told agents the coffin was hot and they had trouble breathing.
A news release publicizing his guilty plea said he had faced up to five years in federal prison.
Blood has been in custody since his arrest.
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