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Human Smuggling/Trafficking
04/17/2012

6 charged with harboring aliens in south Texas

9 of the aliens were later killed during transport

MCALLEN, Texas — Five of the six people arrested last week following the fatal rollover in Palmview, Texas, made their initial court appearances Tuesday and were ordered detained pending further criminal proceedings, announced U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson, Southern District of Texas.

The investigation is being led by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) with the assistance of U.S. Customs and Border Protection's (CBP) Border Patrol, and the Texas police departments of Palmview and Mission.

Gloria Solis, 25, and Luis Julian Vargas, 19, both of Mission, Texas; and Alexander Barrios-Grajales, 26, Alejandro Garcia-Nava, 18, and Jose Vega-Zapata, 35, all Mexican nationals residing in Mission, Texas, were arrested April 11. All five appeared for a detention hearing April 17, and U.S. Magistrate Judge Peter E. Ormsby ordered them into custody. Carmelo Diaz-Gopar, 24, of Mexico, was arrested April 10, and is set for a detention hearing April 19.

Nine of 16 aliens who had been riding inside the vehicle were killed when their vehicle was involved in a single-vehicle rollover crash. They had been picked up from the stash house where they had allegedly been harbored and were subsequently being transported to another destination within the United States.

According to court documents, CBP attempted to conduct a traffic stop on a minivan suspected of transporting illegal aliens. The minivan initially pulled to the side of the road in Palmview, Texas. Diaz-Gopar then exited the van and ran away to elude the agents. He was apprehended shortly afterwards. The minivan driver then drove away at a high rate of speed and crashed and rolled the car just a short distance from the location of the original stop. Sixteen illegal aliens were being transported in the minivan. Nine were killed and the others were taken to local hospitals for medical treatment. Several law enforcement agencies responded to the scene of the crash.

A preliminary investigation provided HSI with information that additional illegal aliens were still being harbored at a stash house in Mission, Texas. HSI and other law enforcement agencies conducted a consensual search of the stash house and discovered 12 additional aliens in the residence, along with Solis, Barrios-Grajales and Garcia-Nava.

At the stash house location, HSI also arrested Vega-Zapata and Vargas for their involvement in the alien harboring. Some of the illegal aliens provided statements to special agents, implicating the defendants and their involvement in the alien harboring, according to the complaint.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Linda Requénez, Southern District of Texas, is prosecuting this case.