BENTON – A man originally from Mexico was sentenced to 18 months in federal prison in U.S. District Court in Benton on Wednesday after he admitted to re-entering the U.S. after previously being deported.
Jose A. Navarro-Laguna, 41, pled guilty to Illegal Re-Entry after Deportation.
According to court documents, Navarro-Laguna was driving a car with a female passenger when the Illinois State Police conducted a traffic stop on Interstate 57 southbound near Mount Vernon, Illinois on Aug. 24, 2022. ISP troopers observed the female passenger did not speak English, and Navarro-Laguna stated he was giving her a ride to Alabama.
Upon searching the vehicle, ISP troopers only found clothing and personal items belonging to Navarro-Laguna and was thus suspicious the passenger was a victim of human trafficking and reported the incident to DHS. Navarro-Laguna admitted he knew the female was not legally present in the U.S., and that he gave rides to individuals for payment.
“Individuals in the U.S. illegally can pose significant threats to local public safety through undetected drug smuggling and human trafficking,” said U.S. Attorney Rachelle Aud Crowe.
“It’s concerning that the defendant admitted to transporting another immigrant in exchange for payment, and I appreciate the efforts by the Illinois State Police and the Department of Homeland Security to investigate this incident and apprehend Navarro-Laguna.”
“Navarro-Laguna had no regard for human life and the rule of law,” said HSI Chicago Special Agent in Charge R. Sean Fitzgerald. “Today’s sentencing sends a message that HSI and our law enforcement partners are committed to working together to investigate human trafficking and protect our communities from those who engage in these heinous crimes.”
“The Illinois State Police has zero tolerance for human traffickers and we remain vigilant in our protection of human trafficking victims,” said ISP Director Brendan F. Kelly.
Since 2005, Navarro-Laguna has been found guilty of Illegal Entry in the U.S. and deported on at least three separate occasions. The sentencing guidelines for an illegal re-entry offense are zero to six months, but the sentencing judge noted the defendant’s previous consequences have not deterred him.
HSI led the investigation with assistance from ISP, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Karelia prosecuted the case.
January is recognized nationally as Human Trafficking Awareness Month.