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Human Smuggling/Trafficking

4 more arrested regarding an alien smuggling vehicle accident investigation

HOUSTON - Two U.S. citizens and two Mexican nationals, including one U.S. permanent resident, were arrested on Wednesday and charged with conspiracy to transport illegal aliens. These charges were announced by U.S. Attorney José Angel Moreno on Wednesday. The investigation is being conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the U.S. Border Patrol.

Victor Manuel Campuzano, 23, Jaime Roman Bustamante, 27, both of Houston; Servando Alvarado-Casas, 29, a Mexican national illegally residing in Houston; and Miguel Alvarado-Casas, 36, a Mexican national legally residing in Houston, were all arrested in Southwest Houston. Servando Alvarado-Casa was apprehended by agents after fleeing out a rear window of a residence. All four are charged in a partially unsealed criminal indictment in the Corpus Christi Division of the Southern District of Texas, returned on March 24, with a multi-year conspiracy involving the transporting illegal aliens. All four are scheduled to appear before a U.S. Magistrate on Wednesday or Thursday in Houston, before being transferred to Corpus Christi. The indictment remains sealed and warrants remain outstanding others who are charged but are not yet in custody.

The charges stem from a Nov. 24, 2009, single-vehicle accident in Jim Wells County that resulted in 17 illegal aliens and the pickup truck driver being injured. The driver and two others, who allegedly drove a scout car traveling with the pickup truck, were arrested and charged in a separate case. The arrests in Houston on May 5 resulted from the continued investigation by ICE and the U.S. Border Patrol to identify other alleged members of the smuggling organization. During Wednesday's arrests, ICE was assisted by special agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and the Houston Police Department.

The 17 illegal aliens were injured after the pickup truck in which they were being transported left the roadway, drove through a fence, and then plummeted over a 40-foot embankment. The aliens, determined to be from Mexico and Guatemala, and the driver of the pickup truck were transported to area hospitals for treatment of their injuries. Law enforcement officers also identified a vehicle occupied by two others which appeared to be traveling with the pickup truck. Such a vehicle is often characterized as a scout vehicle normally used to divert law enforcement during illegal smuggling operations. The following day, the two Houston-area residents who occupied that vehicle were arrested and charged for their alleged involvement in the smuggling effort. The driver of the pickup truck and the passengers in the alleged scout car are charged in separate but related cases. The driver of the pickup truck has pleaded guilty to conspiracy to transport illegal aliens and is pending sentencing. The two who allegedly drove the scout car are pending trial.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Lance Watt will prosecute the case in the Corpus Christi division, Southern District of Texas.