Texas man admits to smuggling Mexican nationals in coffin

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Texas man admits to smuggling Mexican nationals in coffin

A Texas man has pleaded guilty to trying to smuggle two Mexican nationals in a flag-draped coffin while telling a Border Patrol agent the tattered casket contained a dead “Navy guy,” federal prosecutors said.

Zachary Taylor Blood, 33, of Galveston, was stopped by US Customs and Border Protection agents as he drove a gray van modified to transport caskets at a checkpoint near Falfurrias in the Lone Star state on Oct. 26, the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Texas said Tuesday.

The agents then spotted a coffin in the back of Blood’s van, prompting them to ask what he was hauling, federal prosecutors said.

“Dead guy, Navy guy,” Blood curtly replied, court documents show.

But the Border Patrol agents noticed the coffin was in poor condition and had an American flag crudely affixed to the top with packing tape, authorities said.

Blood’s vehicle was then sent for a secondary inspection, during which two Mexican nationals in the US illegally were discovered inside the dilapidated coffin.

Zachary Blood initially told officers that there was a "dead navy guy" in the coffin but, inspectors noticed that the flag on the coffin was held in place with duct tape.
Zachary Blood initially told officers that there was a “dead Navy guy” in the coffin but, inspectors noticed that the flag on the coffin was held in place with duct tape.
AP Photo/Fernando Llano
The Falfurrias checkpoint in rural Brooks County is roughly 70 miles north of the US-Mexico border.
Jose CABEZAS/AFP via Getty Images

“The two men admitting to paying a smuggler to get them to San Antonio,” federal prosecutors said in a statement Tuesday. “They claimed that after crossing the river into the United States, they were taken to a parking lot where Blood was waiting for them. He had them get into the coffin and began driving north.”

The Falfurrias checkpoint in rural Brooks County is roughly 70 miles north of the US-Mexico border. Both Border Patrol agents who initially spotted Blood’s rusty and dented coffin are military veterans, NBC News reported.

An attorney for Blood – who is not accused of bringing the two Mexican nationals into the United States – said his client accepted responsibility in the case, but declined further comment, according to NBC News.

Border patrol agents flagged Zachary Blood's vehicle after they noticed the coffin was rather beaten up.
Border patrol agents flagged Zachary Blood’s vehicle after they noticed the coffin was rather beaten up.
PAUL RATJE/AFP via Getty Images

One of the Mexican nationals, meanwhile, told investigators he paid $6,000 to be smuggled into the US along with his cousin — the second man discovered inside the coffin, an affidavit obtained by NBC News shows.

Blood, who remains in custody ahead of his May 11 sentencing, faces up five years in prison and up to $250,000 in fines.

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