Man convicted in smuggling case seeks appeal

A Houston-based mechanic who was sentenced to 51 months in federal custody last month for his role in a human smuggling operation in which 86 undocumented people were discovered hidden in a tractor trailer is appealing his conviction.

Roger Edgardo Garcia-Brizuela was sentenced on Jan. 6 after he pleaded guilty to two counts of a superseding indictment filed in the case. He was charged with conspiracy to transport certain illegal aliens and possession of a firearm, unlawful because of his immigration status.

In a separate case, the driver of the tractor trailer Jorge Alfredo Rodriguez took a plea agreement in December and was sentenced to three years in federal custody.

Rodriguez’ co-defendant Danay Rego-Placenscia, who according to court records knew Garcia-Brizuela from the Houston area, is set to go to trial in April.

Garcia-Brizuela is a native of Honduras. During sentencing, his attorney told the judge that he worked as a mechanic to support his family. The attorney stated that his client lived in a small apartment in the Houston area and did not have the means to harbor large numbers of undocumented people.

Additionally, the attorney argued that Garcia-Brizuela did not have access to $45,000 and $215,000, the sums of money allegedly paid to the driver of the trailer, Jorge Alfredo Rodriguez, whose testimony resulted in Garcia-Brizuela’s conviction.

The attorney told U.S. District Judge Fernando Rodriguez, Jr. that prosecutors never found bank accounts related to the incidents and that Garcia-Brizuela was never formally implicated in the May 22, 2018 smuggling incident, outside of Rodriguez’s testimony.

The man’s attorney asked the judge for a sentencing variance, alleging that Jorge Alfredo Rodriguez’s testimony was not credible. The judge denied this request after hearing from a government prosecutor, who argued that there was “no evidence that [Garcia-Brizuela] withdrew from the conspiracy whatsoever.”

A notice of appeal was entered into the case file on Jan. 25.