Six more charged for immigrant deaths in Palmview
Fri, 13 Apr 2012 17:56:39 GMT —
Authorities have charged five men and a woman for their roles in the deaths of nine illegal immigrants during a rollover accident in Palmview.
U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents filed a criminal complaint against the six suspect on Thursday morning.
Court records in the federal human smuggling case were made public on Friday morning.
The six suspects were identified as:
Carmelo Diaz-Gopar, 24 Gloria Solis, 25 Alexander Barrios-Grajales, 26 Alejandro Garcia-Nava, 18 Jose Vega-Zapata, 35 Luis Julian Vargas, 19
Solis and Vargas were identified as American citizens but the other four were identifed as Mexican nationals.
Crime Scene Clues
Court records show that investigators got their first leads during the chase itself.
Border Patrol agents pulled over a grey mini-van off Expressway 83 in Palmview on Tuesday night.
The mini-van pulled over for the agents but front seat passenger Diaz-Gopar bailed out and fled on foot.
Border Patrols agents arrested him but the teen driver sped off and then wrecked down the highway.
Nine of the immigrants were killed during the accident and the remaining seven of them were injured.
Some of the immigrants were able to speak and gave ICE agents their next set of clues.
Authorities invesitgating the wreck went to an immigrant stash house at 702 Greenland Circle in Palmview.
Investigators found 12 undocumented immigrants inside the house but also arrested suspects Solis, Barrios-Grajales and Garcia-Nava.
Court records show that the home was used as a staging area before the immigrants were driven to the brush country north of the Rio Grande Valley.
The immigrants told investigators that they were supposed to pay the smugglers once they reached Houston.
The records show Solis was related to the homeowner, who lives in New York. Solis got paid to house and feed the immigrants.
Both Barrios-Grajales and Garcia-Nava claimed to be undocumented immigrants headed to New York but the witnesses said they acted as caretakers and enforcers at the stash house.
Court records show that five illegal immigrants from Mexico are being held as witnesses in the case:
Maria Del Rosales Morales-Bedolla Maria Luisa Ruiz-Martinez Maria Lourdes Jimenez-Garcia Oliverio Leon-Juarez Santos Eufracio-Perez
Morales-Bedolla, Ruiz-Martinez and Jimenez-Garcia all survived the fatal accident in Palmview but Leon-Juarez and Eufracio-Perez were rescued at the stash house.
The witnesses told investigators that they had all met Diaz-Gopar at different places.
Some of them said Diaz-Gopar guided them from Oaxaca in southern Mexico all the way to Reynosa just across the border from the Rio Grande Valley.
Others said he guided them across them across the Rio Grande River.
On the night of the accident, Diaz-Gopar was supposed to guide the group in the mini-van through the brush between Falfurrias and Sarita.
ICE agents were able to track down two other people involved in the human smuggling ring.
Vega-Zapata, who was identified as a Mexican national, is accused of making all the smuggling arragnments, using homes as stash houses and other logistics.
ICE agents also arrested Vargas, who is an American citizen.
Vargas accused of driving and recruiting drivers to move the immigrants out of the Valley and up north.
Records show that Vargas recruited the teenage driver who was behind the wheel at the time of the fatal accident in Palmview.
Palmview police told Action 4 News that the teenager is in custody for his role in the accident.
The teen cannot face the death penalty or federal charges because of his age.