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Human smuggler from Tennessee sentenced in South Texas to 4 years in federal prison for using aftermarket wooden boxes to transport illegal aliens

9 Feb

LAREDO, Texas — A Tennessee man was sentenced Thursday to four years in federal prison for his role in a human smuggling scheme that placed the smuggled aliens in dangerous and life-threatening conditions.

This sentence was announced by U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Patrick, Southern District of Texas. This case was investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) with assistance from U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP).

Zachary Steven Blizzard, 27, from Kingport, Tennessee, was sentenced Feb. 8 by U.S. District Judge Hilda G. Tagle to 48 months in federal prison and to three years of supervised release.  Blizzard pleaded guilty to the human smuggling charges Sept. 5, 2017.

According to court documents, on June 15, 2017, Blizzard instructed three illegal aliens, one of whom was a minor, to hide themselves in two aftermarket wooden boxes built into the back of his white 2008 Chevrolet work van.  Authorities discovered the illegal aliens as Blizzard attempted to pass through a U.S. CBP checkpoint on Highway 59 about 15 miles west of Laredo.

Blizzard is one of eight defendants apprehended since April 2017 for transporting illegal aliens in wooden boxes built into the back of vehicles.  In some instances, the boxes were nailed or screwed shut with temperatures inside often reaching more than 100 degrees.

On Feb. 8, Judge Tagle also sentenced Ricky Lee Parker, 51, from Calhoun, Georgia, to 24 months in prison for transporting eight illegal aliens found sweating and thirsty in two cramped wooden boxes.

Prior to the Feb. 8 sentencings, the following human smugglers were also sentenced to federal prison:  Allen North, 39, from Ashland, Kentucky; Richard Jordan Lamar Defoor, 32, from Calhoun, Georgia; Allan Ray Collins, 32, from Isom, Kentucky; and Donna Lynn Williams, 46, from Chatsworth, Georgia; Sean Michael McKinney, 46, from Steger, Illinois. North and Collins each received 24 months; Defoor and Collins were sentenced to 18 months. McKinney received a 30-month term of imprisonment.

The last defendant in this investigation, Travis Dean McKelroy, 48, from San Antonio, pleaded guilty last week and is awaiting sentencing.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Lisa M. Ezra, Southern District of Texas, is prosecuting this case.