Five people have been charged in an alleged human smuggling scheme that led to the deaths of five undocumented immigrants in a crash following a chase by the Border Patrol and sheriff’s deputies in Texas.
A federal complaint filed Tuesday charges the defendants with transporting undocumented immigrants and conspiracy to transport and harbor undocumented immigrants resulting in serious bodily injury and death. If convicted they could face life in prison or death, a $250,000 fine, and five years of supervised release, according to Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
The fatal incident Sunday began when a Border Patrol agent in Carrizo Springs saw three vehicles pass him on a rural highway, US Customs and Border Protection said. The agent stopped one vehicle, another agent stopped a second, but a third did not stop for an agent.
A Dimmitt County Sheriff’s deputy began chasing it west of Big Wells. The vehicle was traveling around 100 mph when it ran off the road, flipped several times and landed on the highway, Sheriff Marion Boyd said.
The criminal complaint says Jorge Luis Monsivais Jr., 20, of Eagle Pass, Texas, was driving the 2007 Suburban. He had 13 suspected undocumented immigrants, including one juvenile, in the vehicle. Four of them died at the scene. Another died on the way to the hospital, ICE said.
The complaint says agents captured 10 suspected undocumented immigrants from a 2008 Tahoe, along with the 17-year-old driver.
In addition to Monsivais, ICE said, the criminal complaint charges these people as conspirators in the smuggling venture: the driver of a 2013 Tahoe, 55-year-old Mexican citizen Marcial Gomez Santana; and occupants 45-year-old Mexican citizen Mariela Reyna; Marcial’s son, 21-year-old Rudy Gomez of Hockley, Texas; and, Marcial’s daughter, 19-year-old Johana Gomez of Houston. All five charged remain in custody.
Of the 23 undocumented immigrants involved, 21 are Mexican nationals and two are Honduran nationals, ICE said.
ICE said six were being held on federal complaints as material witnesses. The juvenile driver is in the custody of Dimmit County authorities. An attempt by CNN to contact legal representation for the defendants was not immediately successful.