Four Albanian migrants were found taped inside large cardboard boxes in the back of a van bound for Dover.
Border guards stopped the van, which was travelling from Frankfurt to Derby, in Calais before it crossed the Channel to the UK.
It later emerged that the men had paid more than £600 (700 Euros) each to a people smuggling gang, one of whom has now been jailed.
Vladmir Tollumi, 39, was identified as one of four people trafficking illegal immigrants into Britain. The three others have not been traced.
Tollumi who was arrested in May now faces being deported after his release from the 40-month prison sentence he was given last week.
Prosecutor Sarah Slater told Derby Crown Court that the smuggling operation was cracked on May 22, 2017.
She said: ‘At around 5am on the French side of the border a van travelling from Frankfurt was stopped by border control officials.
‘The driver was asked to open the back of it and inside were six boxes sealed with blue tape.
‘They were opened and inside four of them were four Albanians who, it was established, were being smuggled into the UK by illegal means.’
Tollumi pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to assist the unlawful immigration of a non-EU citizen into a member state.
Jane Cochran from East Midlands Criminal and Financial Investigations (CFI) was in court in Derby to see him sentenced.
She said: ‘Tollumi may not have been driving the vehicle in which Border Force found the illegal migrants, but he was an integral part of the criminal enterprise.
‘CFI’s investigations found that prior to the offence, Tollumi had made deliberate attempts to cover his tracks by registering mobile phones and legal paperwork to false addresses.
‘However, hundreds of phone calls made by him on and around the offence date, together with other evidence uncovered by CFI, linked him directly to the offence.
‘People smuggling is a trade that is motivated by financial gain, preying on those who are most desperate. Our officers specialise in disrupting this type of immigration crime and will not hesitate to bring those responsible before the courts.’
Tollumi’s lawyer Edward Henry QC told a judge: ‘This operation was a failure. It was aborted and there is no evidence of any subsequent attempt to carry out further offences.
‘(The travel writer and critic) AA Gill described Albania as “living in the 17 century”. Its economy is dilapidated.
‘Mr. Tollumi came to the UK in 2004 and was given the right to remain but he has now lost that due to his serious descent into criminality. It is absolutely right that he goes to prison.’