Career Criminal Took Feds Clinging to Truck on Dangerous Desert Drive

Chalmie

Alex Chamie’s rap sheet dates back to 1990 and includes 11 burglaries, nine thefts, two drug convictions, and two federal convictions for smuggling undocumented immigrants. Composite by Coffee or Die Magazine.

Composite by Coffee or Die Magazine.

A career criminal who took a pair of US Border Patrol agents clinging to his truck on a potentially deadly ride through the Texas brush will stay behind bars.

On Tuesday, July 26, in Corpus Christi, US District Judge Drew B. Tipton sentenced Alex Chamie to 51 months in a federal prison, plus three years of supervised release when he exits the penitentiary, for transporting undocumented migrants.

Tipton also ordered Chamie to receive substance abuse treatment and recommended that he be incarcerated in the low-security Federal Correction Institution Bastrop southeast of Austin.

Chamie, 49, of Houston, had faced up to five years behind bars and a $250,000 fine for each of two counts of transporting the smuggled migrants, but a plea deal inked on his behalf by his court-appointed attorneys led prosecutors to toss one of the charges.

The federal defenders didn’t respond to Coffee or Die Magazine messages seeking comment.

USBP

US Border Patrol agents survey the brush near Falfurrias, Texas, on March 22, 2022. US Border Patrol photo.

US Border Patrol photo.

Arrested 19 times by five different law enforcement agencies since 1990, Chamie has a rap sheet that includes collars for narcotics trafficking, robbery, drug possession, burglary of both cars and homes, theft, evading arrest, giving false identification to police, and probation violations.

His revolving door acquaintance with the Lone Star State’s penal system includes numerous and lengthy stays at the Texas State Penitentiary at Huntsville, plus a nearly two-year stretch at Beeville’s Garza West Unit.

Chamie’s latest legal woes began about an hour before midnight on Feb. 23 in the brush off Highway 281 near the US Border Patrol station in Falfurrias.

It’s an area where drivers fetch undocumented migrants attempting to circumvent both highway checkpoints and roving federal patrols, taking them either to nearby stash houses or to Houston.

An agent spotted migrants emerging from the desert and hopping into Chamie’s truck and called for assistance.

Stash house

US Border Patrol agents rove in the brush or staff checkpoints on roadways, watching for smugglers who transport undocumented migrants to stash houses, way stations between long treks through the Texas brush. This trailer in Pharr was raided by federal agents on Sept. 18, 2020. It contained more than 60 migrants, officials said. US Border Patrol photo.

US Border Patrol photo.

Other agents drove toward what agents thought could be a routine traffic stop, but Chamie gunned his engine, speeding past a semitrailer truck before veering to the shoulder of the roadway.

Six passengers bolted and bounded into the brush while a pair of US Border Patrol agents rushed toward the driver’s door. Chamie shrugged off their commands to park the truck and instead tried to peel out with both agents hanging off the vehicle. But his tires kept clawing into sand, which slowed his escape.

During the battle for control of the truck, an agent slapped the gear into park, but Chamie ripped it back into drive and punched his foot on the gas pedal.

On their third try, both agents put the truck into park and turned it off. Other agents swarmed the scene, but they were able to corral only four Chamie’s six passengers.

Injured in the fracas, Chamie was transported to a nearby hospital for treatment.

US Department of Justice officials later said agents frisked Chamie and confiscated a black pepper spray gun that resembled a firearm, but that detail appears nowhere in the federal court documents, many of which were sealed from public view by the judge.

Falfurrias

One of the busiest highway checkpoints staffed by US Border Patrol agents nationwide, the facility near Falfurrias routinely nabs undocumented migrants hidden in vehicles, like this man caught crammed inside a suitcase with three other people in late 2020. Agents reported detaining 13 migrants folded inside the truck. US Border Patrol photo.

US Border Patrol photo.

A Mexican migrant detained by the federal agents after Chamie’s arrest said he was the second driver to give her a lift since she entered the toe of Texas.

She told agents the first driver let her group out south of Falfurrias and they walked through the wilderness for two hours trying to circumvent the checkpoint.

Then Chamie picked them up for the drive to Houston.

Another migrant from El Salvador told agents he paid smugglers $11,000 to get to Houston. He described walking for two days in the brush after crossing the Rio Grande River. Then a different driver picked him up.

After hiding for six days in a stash house, he was dropped off along a road and began a second trek through the brush, heading north.

Falfurrias

US Border Patrol agents at the Falfurrias checkpoint in Texas rescued 13 migrants from a locked tractor-trailer on May 24, 2022. A K9 working dog detected human cargo and agents found the undocumented migrants from Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Brazil hidden among pallets of scrap metal. They also discovered three foreigners hiding in the cab of the rig. US Border Patrol photo.

US Border Patrol photo.

But he got lost and fell in with a second group that was waiting for Chamie.

When the Houston driver arrived, he jumped into the truck and dove to the floor. When the agents forced the vehicle to stop, he thought the truck had crashed.

He emerged only to be quickly nabbed by the federal agents.

This wasn’t Chamie’s first brush with US Border Patrol. He was convicted in 2018 for conspiring to transport undocumented migrants through a federal checkpoint near Sarita.

He was arrested near Falfurrias just 56 days after he was released from federal prison.

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Carl came to Coffee or Die Magazine after stints at Navy Times, The San Diego Union-Tribune, and Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. He served in the Marine Corps and the Pennsylvania Army National Guard. His awards include the Joseph Galloway Award for Distinguished Reporting on the military, a first prize from Investigative Reporters & Editors, and the Combat Infantryman Badge.
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