Four more arrests made one year after 53 migrants died in sweltering tractor trailer
One year after 53 migrants were found dead in a sweltering tractor trailer in San Antonio, more arrests have been made.
Jaime Esparza, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Texas, said four more arrests have been made in the deadliest migrant smuggling case in modern U.S. history.
All four men are Mexican nationals. They were arrested Monday in San Antonio, Houston, and Marshall, Texas, and arraigned Tuesday in San Antonio.
They are Riley Covarrubias-Ponce, 30; Felipe Orduna-Torres, 28; Luis Alberto Rivera-Leal, 37; and Armando Gonzales-Ortega, 53.
The indictment alleges the defendants participated in a human smuggling organization that illegally brought adults and children from Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico into the United States between December 2021 and June 2022.
According to the indictment, some of the defendants were aware the trailer's air conditioning unit was malfunctioning and didn't blow cool air to the migrants inside.
“The allegations in the indictment are horrifying,” Esparza said. “Dozens of desperate, vulnerable men, women and children put their trust in smugglers who abandoned them in a locked trailer to perish in the merciless south Texas summer. Thanks to our law enforcement partners at the local, state, and federal levels — with Homeland Security Investigations San Antonio Division leading the investigation — we are one step closer to delivering justice for those migrants and their families.”
Each defendant is charged with:
- one count of conspiracy to transport migrants illegally resulting in death
- one count of conspiracy to transport of migrants illegally resulting in serious bodily injury and placing lives in jeopardy
- one count of transportation of migrants illegally resulting in death
- one count of transportation of migrants illegally resulting in serious bodily injury and placing lives in jeopardy.
If convicted, the defendants face a maximum of life in prison.
“Human smugglers prey on migrants’ hope for a better life – but their only priority is profit,” said U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland. “Tragically, 53 people who had been loaded into a tractor-trailer in Texas and endured hours of unimaginable cruelty lost their lives because of this heartless scheme. Human smugglers who put peoples’ lives at risk for profit and break our laws cannot hide for long: We will find you and bring you to justice.”
Two others connected to the incident were arrested last year and remain in federal custody without bond. Homero Zamorano Jr., 46, and Christian Martinez, 28, both of Pasadena, Texas, are being held on counts of transporting and conspiring to transport migrants illegally resulting in death; and transporting and conspiring to transport migrants illegally resulting in serious injury.
They are due in court Sept. 11.
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