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April 14, 2021San Antonio, TX, United StatesHuman Smuggling/Trafficking

Central Texas man indicted for transporting 8 noncitizens who died in vehicle crash

DEL RIO, Texas - An Austin, Texas, man was indicted Wednesday for transporting noncitizens, eight of whom died as a result of a head-on vehicle collision.

Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) special agents investigated the case in coordination with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Border Patrol and the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS).

Sebastian Tovar, 24, was indicted on multiple counts, which included conspiracy to transport noncitizens resulting in death and conspiracy to transport noncitizens resulting in serious bodily injury.

According to court documents, on March 15, Tovar was traveling in a maroon pickup truck on FM 2523 near Del Rio when a DPS trooper attempted to stop him for driving fast. Tovar failed to stop and a pursuit ensued. Tovar led the trooper on a chase for about 50 miles, at times reaching speeds over 100 miles per hour. Traveling north into the southbound lane on Highway 277, Tovar collided head on with another vehicle, resulting in the death of eight noncitizens who were riding in Tovar’s pickup truck.

Shortly after the accident, Border Patrol agents on the scene encountered a beige pickup truck stopped in traffic on Highway 277 near the crash site. While Border Patrol agents were directing traffic, several people jumped out of the beige pickup and fled the scene. Agents subsequently apprehended 12 noncitizens who attempted to flee. Four of the noncitizens, from Mexico, were part of a failed human smuggling attempt that included breaking up a group of noncitizens between the maroon and beige pickup trucks for transport purposes.

Tovar, who remains in federal custody, faces a maximum sentence of life in federal prison if convicted.

U.S. Attorney Joshua B. Banister, Western District of Texas, is prosecuting this case.

An indictment is merely a charge and should not be considered as evidence of guilt. The defendant is considered innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

HSI is a directorate of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the principal investigative arm of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), responsible for investigating transnational crime and threats, specifically those criminal organizations that exploit the global infrastructure through which international trade, travel and finance move. HSI’s workforce of over 10,400 employees consists of more than 7,100 special agents assigned to 220 cities throughout the United States, and 80 overseas locations in 53 countries. HSI’s international presence represents DHS’s largest investigative law enforcement presence abroad and one of the largest international footprints in U.S. law enforcement.