A South Texas teen was charged for allegedly smuggling five people into the United States, say law enforcement officials in Sullivan City.
Late Saturday, a patrol officer stopped the vehicle of 17-year-old Eduardo Virgilio Aguilera for a traffic violation, according to Sullivan City Police Chief Richard Ozuna, who spoke to Breitbart News about the teenager’s arrest.
Ozuna said that as the officer approached the car, he observed a passenger in the front seat who was dressed in wet clothing and covered in mud, characteristic signs of border crossings through the Rio Grande River. “He saw the front passenger covered with mud and the people in the back seat, who were slumped over.”
Aguilera, a Mission resident, later told officers he was sorry while admitting he picked up the five individuals and drove them across the U.S./Mexico Border into Texas for a cash payment of $350 per person, according to Ozuna. In this case, the teen’s pay day totaled $1,750.
Sullivan City police contacted U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers. “They identified the individuals as being undocumented,” said Ozuna. Subsequently, CBP took custody of the five people. Ozuna said three were males and two females. They came from Guatemala and El Salvador.
Aguilera was arraigned Monday and charged with smuggling of persons, according to Ozuna. Hidalgo County Jail records show Aguilera was released Tuesday on a $5,000 bond.
Sullivan City sits on the western edge of Hidalgo County and, according to Ozuna, its southern most jurisdiction, Los Ebanos, is approximately three-quarters of a mile from the Rio Grande River, the site of the historic Los Ebanos International ferry, a port of entry.
About Los Ebanos, Breitbart Texas reported:
The area is considered by law enforcement to be a prime smuggling corridor resulting in regular, high speed chases as cartel smugglers try to avoid arrest. Breitbart Texas has reported on various high speed chases where human smugglers have caused fatal crashes in their attempts to avoid capture.
Additionally, Breitbart Texas reported that Sullivan City has become one of the main drug corridors used by the Gulf Cartel as well as the site of human trafficking activity over the years.
Aguilera’ arrest happened a few blocks from where Migdaliz Flores operates her 10-year-old business. She told KRGV these types of incidents are commonplace. “There’s always illegal activity going on because there’s always people getting stopped in front of the business.”
Ozuna, Sullivan City’s police chief since the summer of 2016, said, “Our goal as a police department is to protect our community so they can be safe and secure if we have any type of crossings from Mexico into the USA.” He described their mission with illegal border crossings as “to deter, dismantle, or make apprehensions,” but also said “sometimes it’s hit and miss.”
Sullivan City police work very closely with local, state, and federal authorities, especially nearby CBP agents, said Ozuna. He pointed out the department receives state support in a Local Border Security Grant Program and federal assistance from the Homeland Security Grant Program to better protect the border community. Still, he fears, that for as long as there is a “monetary value to gain,” individuals will continue to smuggle people across the border and conduct other criminal activities in the U.S. regardless of whatever technology or structure is put in place. “Wherever there’s a will, there’s a way,” said Ozuna.