4 people have been charged in the Texas semitruck smuggling operation that left 53 migrants dead | CNN

4 people have been charged in the Texas semitruck smuggling operation that left 53 migrants dead | CNN




CNN
 — 

Four people have been arrested and charged after 53 migrants died in what one Homeland Security Investigations agent called the deadliest human smuggling incident in US history.

The migrants were found in sweltering conditions inside a semitruck in San Antonio on Monday after an employee at a nearby building heard cries for help. More than a dozen people were found alive inside the tractor-trailer and hospitalized for heat-related conditions, according to San Antonio authorities.

Homero Zamorano Jr., 45, who is originally from Brownsville but resides in Pasadena, Texas, was arrested Wednesday on criminal charges related to alleged involvement in human smuggling resulting in death, according to a US Department of Justice news release. Zamorano has a lengthy criminal record dating back to the 1990s, public records show.

Christian Martinez, 28, who was arrested on Tuesday in Palestine, Texas, was charged with one count of conspiracy to transport undocumented migrants resulting in death, the DOJ said.

If convicted, both Zamorano and Martinez could face up to life in prison or could face the death penalty. CNN has been unable to determine if Zamorano or Martinez has an attorney.

When police arrived on scene Monday, they discovered multiple people inside the tractor-trailer, some on the ground and in nearby brush, “many of them deceased and some of them incapacitated,” according to the DOJ release.

“SAPD officers were led to the location of an individual, later identified as Zamorano, who was observed hiding in the brush after attempting to abscond. Zamorano was detained by SAPD officers,” the release said.

Laredo Sector Border Patrol also provided Homeland Security Investigations agents with surveillance footage that showed the tractor-trailer crossing through an immigration checkpoint, according to the release. The driver could be seen wearing a black shirt with stripes and a hat.

“HSI agents confirmed Zamorano matched the individual from the surveillance footage and was wearing the same clothing,” the release read.

An investigation revealed that communications occurred between Zamorano and Martinez concerning the smuggling event, according to the release.

Two other individuals, Juan Claudio D’Luna-Mendez and Juan Francisco D’Luna-Bilbao, have been charged with “possession of a weapon by an alien illegally in the United States,” according to criminal complaints filed Monday. Authorities were able to locate the men after responding to the semi-truck incident, according to the affidavit.

The attorney for D’Luna-Mendez said he does not comment on pending cases. CNN has reached out to the D’Luna-Bilbao’s attorney and has not heard back.

Quoted from Various Sources

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