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Man sentenced for immigrant smuggling

BIRMINGHAM (AP) — A Texas man has been sentenced to two years in prison and three years of probation for transporting illegal immigrants for profit, officials said.

Martin Barron Alvarado, 41, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Sharon Blackburn on Thursday.

Alvarado, of Baytown, Texas, was stopped by Hoover police on May 4, 2006 while driving a fifteen passenger van. He told police the van was owned by Recondor Tours and said he worked for the company as a driver.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents determined that all 15 passengers were in the country illegally and they were later deported. The passengers told officials the trip started in Houston, Texas, and stops were to be made along the East Coast.

"Protecting our borders remains one of our top priorities," U.S. Attorney Alice Martin said in a statement Thursday. "We will use every tool at our disposal to break up alien smuggling rings and put the operators behind bars."

Assistant United States Michael Whisonant told Blackburn that Alvarado had received a warning after he was stopped in February 2005 outside Gulfport, Miss. while driving a van for Recondor Tours with fourteen illegal aliens on board.

Alvarado said he had been driving for Recondor Tours for about 15 months, making about three trips a month and being paid about $500 per trip.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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