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Records: Off-duty Border Patrol agent busts smugglers near Cuevitas

(Photos courtesy of the Hidalgo County Sheriff's Office)

An off-duty agent called the Rio Grande City Border Patrol Station last week with a hot tip: He'd just seen several suspicious people jump in a Jeep near Cuevitas.

Border Patrol agents and a Texas Department of Public Safety helicopter responded, according to a federal criminal complaint summarizing the incident. The helicopter followed the Jeep north on El Pinto Road.

When a Border Patrol agent attempted to stop the Jeep, four people jumped out and started running away.

The agent detained the driver, 23-year-old Antonio Cristian Lopez of Edinburg, and the front-seat passenger, 21-year-old Julia Maria Tamez of Peñitas.

With help from the helicopter, other agents detained the four people who ran away from the Jeep. They were hiding in the brush nearby.

Lopez said a smuggler offered him $600 to pick up the immigrants, according to the criminal complaint. He identified Tamez as the front-seat passenger.

Tamez said a smuggler hired her to transport the immigrants, according to the criminal complaint. She identified Lopez as the driver.

Lopez and Tamez are charged with transporting aliens in violation of the law.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Peter E. Ormsby ordered Lopez held without bond. Tamez was released on a $30,000 signature bond.

Attorneys for Lopez and Tamez didn't respond to requests for comment.

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