CHATTANOOGA, Tennessee – An illegal immigrant who has been arrested previously on drug and firearms charges and deported seven times Friday pleaded not guilty to illegally re-entering the United States.
Felipe Garcia-Morales, 28, a citizen of Mexico, entered the plea and agreed to be represented by a federal public defender.
Chattanooga police arrested Garcia-Morales for driving without a license July 14. He is also charged with violating federal probation in a previous case in Arizona.
U.S. Magistrate Susan Lee, with the assistance of a Spanish-speaking interpreter, ordered Garcia-Morales held without bond pending an Oct. 31 trial.
Records show Garcia-Morales was most recently deported March 3 to Mexico and forced to leave the United States several times before.
Records show Garcia-Morales was convicted in September 2005 in Arizona on an illegal re-entry charge and sentenced to eight months in prison.
A year earlier he was arrested driving a car "loaded with concealed (smuggled) aliens" Picaco, Arizona, records show.
"The defendant was suspected of being the actual alien smuggler in this case. Prosecution was declined on this matter by the U.S. Attorney's Office for alien smuggling charges and the defendant was ordered deported to Mexico," according to records.
Records also show Garcia-Morales was convicted of misdemeanor drug possession in Las Vegas in February 2000 and sentenced to 45 days as part of a plea agreement after he was charged with possession of cocaine with intent to sell, possession of an unregistered firearm and drawing a deadly weapon in a threatening manner.
Assistant U.S. Attorney James Brooks said at the Friday hearing that if Garcia-Morales is convicted, the maximum possible penalty is 20 years in prison and a $250,000 (euro195,000) fine.