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North Carolina man accused in federal court of illegally bringing aliens into ND

Alfredo Santana-Mercedes mug.jpg
Alfredo Santana-Mercedes

FARGO — One of two men arrested in November on suspicion of trying to smuggle people into the United States at the Canadian border, entered not guilty pleas Monday, Dec. 17, in federal court on charges stemming from the incident.

Alfredo Santana-Mercedes, 41, is charged with two counts of bringing aliens to the U.S. at a place other than a designated port of entry and two counts of attempted transport of illegal aliens, according to documents filed in federal court.

Santana-Mercedes — who appeared in federal court in Fargo Monday via TV from a courthouse in Raleigh, N.C., and spoke with an interpreter present — pleaded not guilty to all four charges.

Each charge carries a maximum of 10 years in prison and/or $250,000 in fines.

Santana-Mercedes, who is a U.S. citizen, and 50-year-old Pedro Hernandez-Guarnizo, of Colombia, were arrested Nov. 3 at the Pembina and Dunseith ports of entry in North Dakota.


According to court documents, authorities allege Santana-Mercedes picked up Mexican citizens in Winnipeg and dropped them off near the Canadian border so they could cross into the U.S.

Authorities picked up the two Mexican citizens near Noyes, Minn., court documents said.

Hernandez-Guarzino was arrested at Dunseith after Custom and Border Patrol agents stopped his vehicle and found a man hiding in his trunk.

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