Coffin caper: Illegal immigrants smuggled in a flag-draped casket

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A smuggler tried to sneak two illegal immigrants past a Border Patrol checkpoint earlier this week by stuffing them into a flag-draped casket and telling agents he was carrying the body of a Navy sailor.

Two agents at the checkpoint, both military veterans, thought the story sounded fishy and the rusty, dented condition of the casket didn’t help. A dog trained to sniff out drugs or hidden migrants also alerted on the Dodge Caravan minivan, so the vehicle was given a more thorough inspection.

When agents opened the casket they found two illegal immigrants crammed inside.

Zachary Taylor Blood, the driver, was arrested and charged with smuggling.

The incident took place Tuesday at a checkpoint near Encino, Texas.

When the minivan drove up, an agent asked Mr. Blood what he was hauling in the rear of the vehicle.

“Dead guy, Navy guy,” Mr. Blood answered, according to the Border Patrol affidavit filed in the case.

But the flag had been affixed to the top of the beat-up container with packaging tape and zip-tied at one corner, and that just didn’t strike the agents, both military veterans, as standard protocol for a funeral procession for a military veteran.

When they confronted Mr. Blood, he invoked his right to remain silent.

The two migrants, cousins Daniel Hernandez-Bueno and Erick Ramirez-Aguilar, were both able to identify Mr. Blood as the smuggler.

Mr. Hernandez said he had already paid $2,000 to cross the border and owed another $4,000 for the rest of the trip — a debt he would have to work off in San Antonio.

The cousins said Mr. Hernandez ordered them to cram into the casket together and then closed it on them, though not shut entirely. They were instructed to close it fully before the vehicle reached the checkpoint.

They did say they had trouble breathing.

Smugglers regularly test unorthodox methods for sneaking illegal immigrants across the border and deeper into the U.S.

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