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Fort Bliss soldier's immigrant smuggling case dropped

By DANIEL BORUNDA | The El Paso Times (Tribune News Service) | Published: March 16, 2017

The case against one of two Fort Bliss soldiers accused of trying to transport undocumented immigrants past a U.S. Border Patrol checkpoint in South Texas has been dismissed, records show.

Marco Antonio Nava Jr., 20, and Joseph Edmond Cleveland, 25, both active-duty soldiers from El Paso, had pleaded guilty in November to an immigrant smuggling charge in U.S. District Court in Corpus Christi.

They faced up to 10 years in federal prison.

Federal court records showed that Nava was scheduled to be sentenced Monday, but instead the charge against him was dismissed by the government at a sealed court hearing in Corpus Christi.

The reason that Nava's case was dismissed was not available. Sentencing documents for both men were labeled confidential and are sealed.

Last month, Cleveland was sentenced to 15 months in federal prison in the case. The judge denied a request by Cleveland to go to prison in Hawaii but granted a request that he be sent to a prison near Seattle, according to documents.

According to the Federal Bureau of Prisons website, Cleveland is scheduled to be released in April 2018.

The U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Texas had said that Nava and Cleveland claimed they were approached by a man who offered them $1,500 if they went to Texas' Lower Rio Grande Valley to drive undocumented immigrants.

On June 18, Nava was driving a car with Cleveland as his front passenger and two men from Mexico in the back seat when they pulled up to the Falfurrias checkpoint located about 80 miles southwest of Corpus Christi, according to federal court documents.

A Border Patrol agent in English asked one of the rear passengers where he was going, a federal affidavit states.

"San Antonio," the passenger replied, the affidavit states. The agent "then asked what his name was, to which he also replied, 'San Antonio.'"

After further questioning in Spanish, the passengers admitted to being in the U.S. illegally and were arrested, documents state.

The affidavit states that the immigrants told agents that they had crossed the Rio Grande on a raft eight days earlier. They were moved to two different trailer homes until June 18, when they were told that someone would pick them up to take them to Houston and Nava arrived in a car.

Nava and Cleveland allegedly used their military service status in an attempt to get past the border checkpoint, documents state.

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©2017 the El Paso Times (El Paso, Texas)
Visit the El Paso Times (El Paso, Texas) at www.elpasotimes.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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