GREENFIELD — An Arizona man faces criminal charges amid allegations he transported undocumented immigrants, including a child whose mother admitted she paid $5,000 to have the little one brought into the United States, documents state.
Jonathan Palma, 22, 35032 W. McNeil St., Arlington, Arizona, was arrested last week following a traffic stop and charged with transporting, a Class A misdemeanor.
He’s currently being held in the Hancock County Jail on a $10,000 bond, jail records show.
A Hancock County sheriff’s deputy stopped Palma last week on Interstate 70 near Greenfield for following too closely to the semi-trailer driving in front of him, court documents state.
Palma also caught Deputy Nick Ernstes’ attention because Palma was driving 5 to 10 miles under the posted speed limit, according to charging documents.
After approaching the stopped vehicle, the deputy asked Palma, who was driving, for his license, and Palma handed over a Mexico driver’s license, documents state. Palma told the deputy he never received a United States driver’s license, document state. Also in the car were two men and two children, who looked frightened, Ernstes wrote in his report.
Ernstes then took Palma to his patrol vehicle to ask him a few questions about the people traveling with him.
Palma said he lives and works as a painter in Kansas City but failed to give the deputy his Kansas City address, according to charging documents. When asked for a phone number for his boss, Palma couldn’t provide that information, either, documents state.
Palma told officers the people with him were his relatives, also from Kansas City, and they were traveling to Pennsylvania for a birthday party, according to charging documents.
Ernstes asked if the children’s parents were in the car with them, and Palma said no, but an uncle was traveling alongside the kids, documents state.
The officer told Palma he believed he was lying, and said he was going to call the Indianapolis office for Immigration Enforcement.
Then, Palma’s story changed, documents state. He told the officer he was lying about living in Kansas City and admitted the story about the people in the car being his relatives also was a lie, according to charging documents.
Eventually, he told the deputy his lived in Phoenix, Arizona. When the deputy confronted him about the lie, Palma just smiled, documents state.
When officers from Immigration Enforcement arrived, they confirmed all of the vehicle’s occupants were immigrating through the United States illegally, according to charging documents.
The officers informed the deputy they had contacted the mother of one of the children in the car, and she admitted to paying a man $5,000 to arrange transportation for her child, records state.
The Class A misdemeanor Palma faces carries a penalty of up to one year and up to $5,000 in fines.