DOJ Charges Alleged Human Smugglers in Crash Deaths of 5 Migrants

In this image tweeted by David Caltabiano of KABB/WOAI, a heavily damaged SUV is seen on Texas Highway 85 in Big Wells, Texas, after crashing while carrying more than a dozen people fleeing from Border Patrol agents, Sunday, June 17, 2018. (David Caltabiano/KABB/WOAI via AP)
Photo: David Caltabiano/KABB/WOAI via AP

The U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Texas filed charges on Tuesday against five people allegedly involved in a human smuggling operation that left five illegal immigrants dead after one of their vehicles crashed an rolled over. The five suspected human smugglers could face up to life in prison or the death penalty for their alleged roles.

Prosecutors in Del Rio filed charges against five people, including 20-year-old Jorge Luis Monsivais, for their roles in an alleged human smuggling operation that led to the deaths of five migrants during a rollover crash in Big Wells, Texas, on Sunday afternoon. The event occurred when a 2007 Chevy Suburban crashed and rolled over multiple times after attempting to evade Border Patrol agents and Dimmit County Sheriff’s Office deputies, Breitbart Texas reported.

Prosecutors said that Monsivais, an Eagle Pass resident, drove the suburban and failed to yield to Border Patrol agents attempting to conduct an immigration traffic stop.

“While traveling east bound on Highway 85, Monsivais, the driver of the 2007 Suburban, crashed as he entered the town of Big Wells, TX,” according to DOJ spokesman Daryl Fields. According to the complaint, Monsivais was traveling with 13 suspected illegal immigrants—including one juvenile—at the time of the crash.

Four people are reported to have died at the scene after being ejected from the Suburban when it rolled numerous times. Emergency medical teams transported nine people to hospitals for treatment of injuries they sustained in the crash. One of those people reportedly died on the way to the hospital, the DOJ stated.

Fields said the juvenile riding in the Suburban SUV was one of the people injured after being ejected from the crash. The juvenile remains hospitalized at this time, Fields wrote. One of the seven remaining injured passengers was released by the hospital and turned over to immigration officials.

The Suburban allegedly driven by Monsivais was part of a three-vehicle convoy that was reported to be smuggling illegal immigrants. The two additional vehicles included a 2013 Tahoe and a 2008 Tahoe.

Prosecutors said the 2013 Tahoe stopped right away when a Border Patrol agent initiated the traffic stop. The other Tahoe and the Suburban continued on. A second Border Patrol vehicle encountered the two remaining vehicles of the human smuggling convoy. The 2008 Tahoe initially failed to stop when the agent activated the vehicle’s emergency lights. However, the driver quickly decided to stop and the occupants of the Tahoe jumped out. The Suburban continued to flee the scene.

Agents captured the driver of the 2008 Tahoe and found 10 suspected illegal aliens in the area. Fields stated the Tahoe driver is a 17-year-old juvenile.

Dimmit County deputies took over the pursuit of the Suburban as it approached the town of Big Wells. A short time later, Monsivais allegedly lost control of the vehicle carrying 13 suspected illegal immigrants, including a juvenile, and rolled multiple times.

In total, the U.S. Attorney’s Office reports that officials apprehended 23 illegal immigrants in connection with this alleged human smuggling scheme. Officials report that 21 of the migrants are Mexican nationals while the other two are from Honduras. Six of the suspected illegal immigrants are currently being held as material witnesses, the prosecutors stated.

The criminal complaint charges  Jorge Luis Monsivais and four other conspirators with transporting illegal immigrants and conspiracy to transport and harbor them, resulting in serious bodily injury and death, Fields reported. If convicted, the five people could face a sentence of life in prison or the death penalty. They could also receive a fine of up to $250,000 and five years of supervised release.

The other suspects charged in the case include:

  • The driver of the 2013 Tahoe, 55-year-old Mexican citizen Marcial Gomez Santana;
  • 45-year-old Mexican citizen Mariela Reyna;
  • Marcial’s son, 21-year-old Rudy Gomez of Hockley, TX; and
  • Marcial’s daughter, 19-year-old Johana Gomez of Houston, TX.

The five suspects remain in custody at this time. The driver of the 2008 Tahoe, a 17-year-old juvenile, remains in the Dimmit County jail.

The investigation of the crash is being handled by the Texas Department of Public Safety while the human smuggling case is being investigated by Homeland Security Investigations, the U.S. Border Patrol, and Dimmit County Sheriff’s Office investigators, officials stated.

Bob Price serves as associate editor and senior political news contributor for Breitbart Texas. He is a founding member of the Breitbart Texas team. Follow him on Twitter @BobPriceBBTXGAB, and Facebook.

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