LUCEDALE, Miss. (WKRG) – A pair of Gulf Coast men face charges in a Texas federal court for allegedly taking part in what the Department of Justice calls a “prolific human smuggling network.”

The indictment, unsealed last week, says Lloyd Bexley, 51, of Lucedale and Jeremy Dickens, 45, of Mobile, helped facilitate transportation of hundreds of undocumented immigrants into the U.S. from Colombia, Guatemala and Mexico from November 2018 to August 2022.

Six other defendants from Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas are part of the indictment. The group allegedly referred to the immigrants as “boxes” and “packages” as they transported people in empty water tankers, suitcases, wooden crates and in the back of pick-up trucks and 18-wheelers.

Drivers picked up immigrants from the U.S.-Mexico border and transported them to “stash houses” around Laredo, Texas right across the border. They then moved them further north to cities like San Antonio, the indictment says.

Bexley, Dickens and other drivers allegedly made up to $2,500 for each person they transported.

The indictment says the immigrants were often in danger as they were held in contained spaces with little ventilation, which became overheated, and they were driven at high speeds with no vehicle safety devices.

81 migrants sit in the trailer of an 18-wheeler as they are allegedly smuggled into the U.S. (Photo: Department of Justice)

“Human smugglers are criminals who do not care about human life,” said U.S. Customs and Border Protection Deputy Commissioner Troy Miller in a news release. “They lie to make money, convincing vulnerable migrants to hand over what is often their life savings in exchange for empty promises to get to the United States. Smugglers regularly abandon migrants in the desert or mountains with no food or water, leaving them for dead.”

Bexley and Dickens are charged with conspiracy to transport and move an alien, placing in jeopardy the life of any person. Bexley is also charged with transporting and moving an alien for the purpose of private financial gain.

If convicted, Bexley could face up to 30 years and Dickens could face up to 20 years in prison.

The indictment includes the criminal forfeiture of three properties by the group as well as money judgments amounting to $2.3 million.

The charges come as part of Joint Task Force Alpha. Attorney General Merrick Garland created the task force to “disrupt and dismantle human smuggling and trafficking networks operating in El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Mexico, with a focus on networks that endanger, abuse or exploit migrants, present national security risks or engage in other types of transnational organized crime.”

The task force has netted over 100 domestic and international arrests since June 2021.

“Today should be a reminder that if you are going to engage in this type of criminal activity, your criminal network is not invisible. The members of the organization will be exposed, the network will be dismantled, and you will be brought to justice,” said Acting Deputy Director PJ Lechleitner of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

The Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics and law enforcement agencies in George, Harrison and Stone counties, and Wiggins, Miss., Jefferson and Washington parishes and Bogalusa, La. were cited as assisting in the investigations.

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