'Big money': Texas sheriff's office busts human smuggling ring moving dozens inside gooseneck trailer


Texas law enforcement officials charged seven suspects with human smuggling and organized crime-related charges after discovering a stash house on Thursday with 26 victims.

Last Thursday, the Bexar County Sheriff’s Office and other agencies broke up a human smuggling operation involving a long, goose-neck trailer traveling to a rural home outside San Antonio, which officials described as an open-air shack.

Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar said the trailer came from the Laredo area and contained a large false compartment underneath, with 26 migrants lying inside.

The suspects were identified as 39-year-old Abeldaro Herrera, 26-year-old Rafael Mendoza, 28-year-old Cristobal Eduardo Deleon, 21-year-old Jose Marvin Hernandez, 23-year-old Mario Enrique Elizondo, 30-year-old Vanessa Castillo, and 45-year-old Ismael Hernandez.

TEXAS LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICIALS BUST HUMAN SMUGGLING OPERATION INVOLVING DOZENS OF MIGRANTS: ‘CARTEL RELATED’

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The Bexar County Sheriff’s Office in Texas identified seven suspects arrested after a human smuggling operation was busted on June 6, 2024. Pictured left to right: Abelardo Herrera, Rafael Mendoza, and Cristobal Eduardo Deleon. (Bexar County Sheriff’s Office)

Herrera, Mendoza and Deleon were all charged with 26 counts of human smuggling. The trio was also charged with engaging in organized criminal activity, alongside Elizondo, Castillo, and Hernandez.

Hernandez was not charged with either crime, but instead faces a single charge of evading arrest.

The sheriff’s office said the 26 victims were safely secured and given medical care.

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The Bexar County Sheriff’s Office in Texas identified seven suspects arrested after a human smuggling operation was busted on June 6, 2024. Pictured left to right: Jose Marvin Hernandez, Mario Enrique Elizondo, Vanessa Castillo, and Ismael Hernandez. (Bexar County Sheriff’s Office)

Of the 26 victims, 12 were taken to University Hospital and treated for minor injuries and heat-related illnesses.

One migrant remained in the hospital for further treatment of dehydration and cardiac-related issues.

The victims consisted of 20 men and six women, all between the ages of 18 and 54.

They all came from Mexico, Honduras, Venezuela and Guatemala, officials said.

SUSPECTED HUMAN SMUGGLER BREACHES AIR FORCE BASE A WEEK AFTER ILLEGAL MIGRANT HOPS FENCE

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A Bexar County Sheriff’s Deputy, right, talks to a handcuffed woman during a law enforcement sting, Thursday, June 6, 2024, in San Antonio.  ((AP Photo/Darren Abate))

The Bexar County Sheriff’s Office seized several vehicles driven by the suspects that were on the property.

U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) told Fox News Homeland Security Investigations is assisting the sheriff’s office with the investigation.

When asked whether the suspects were in the U.S. illegally, ICE declined to comment on the matter.

The sheriff’s office received information on Thursday morning that a human smuggling operation was taking place involving several dozen people.

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A Bexar County Sheriff’s Deputy, left, talks to a handcuffed woman during a law enforcement sting, Thursday, June 6, 2024, in San Antonio. (AP Photo/Darren Abate)

After receiving the tip, the sheriff’s office and multiple other law enforcement agencies followed the trailer to the home that Salazar called an open-air shack with windows open in triple digit temperatures, no air conditioning, no running water, and buckets for toilets.

Investigators said they also discovered multiple bulletproof vests and long rifles behind the residence.

Salazar told reporters he was not sure if any of the rifles were automatic or semi-automatic, adding the guns and vests were “natural” things to find in a smuggling operation like the one his team broke up. He also said the operation was “clearly cartel related.”

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The sheriff described the smuggling operation as “big money,” saying a Guatemalan woman within the group told officials she paid $16,000 to be smuggled into the U.S.



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