BROWNSVILLE, Texas (ValleyCentral) — Federal officials announced several arrests in connection with a human smuggling organization allegedly responsible for the death of eight migrants.
At a news conference on Friday morning at the Reynaldo G. Garza & Filemon B. Vela Courthouse in Brownsville, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Texas Alamdar Hamdani spoke on the arrests.
“Human smuggling is not a victimless crime, and we are here today to announce the indictment against six members of a transnational human smuggling organization responsible for the deaths of at least eight migrants and serious injuries to at least two others,” Hamdani said.
The arrests stem from a year-long investigation called “Operation Justice For All.”
The following individuals were arrested, Hamdani announced: Juan Manuel Tena, 39, Pharr; Julia Isairis Torres, 37, Israel Torres Jr., 33, Erasmo Garcia III, 21, and Alexis Rafael Adorno, all of Roma; and Jose Refugio Torres, 26, Austin.
The U.S. Attorney said the six people were charged and taken into custody over the last three days.
Authorities stated Tena was the man responsible for running the organization, with Adorno, Israel Torres, Julia Torres, and Garcia working as scouts for Tena.
Hamdani said the first deaths occurred in March 2019 when four migrants were killed during a rollover. Six others were injured in the crash, authorities said.
The second incident occurred in February of last year when four migrants were killed, and one was seriously injured, when a boat being used for smuggling capsized near Port Mansfield.
Hamdani said investigators from local, state and federal agencies were able to tie both incidents together.
Craig Larrabee, Acting Special Agent in Charge for HSI-San Antonio, warned against the dangers of human smuggling.
“If you enter into an agreement with a criminal organization, your loved ones will not be treated with respect, nor care,” Larrabee said. “They will simply be seen as a commodity and will be placed in grave danger.”
The 11-count indictment was returned Jan. 10 and unsealed this week.
All of the suspects face life in prison if convicted of the deaths.