Truck Passed Checkpoint in Texas 07/26 06:09
SAN ANTONIO (AP) -- Investigators believe a truck driver accused in the
deaths of 10 people found inside a packed, sweltering tractor-trailer is just
one member of a larger organization involved in human smuggling that they are
looking to identify and dismantle, a U.S. immigration official said.
Some of the 29 identified survivors have told authorities they hired
smugglers who brought them across the U.S. border, loaded some of them onto
trucks that took them to the tractor-trailer, and marked them with different
colored tape to identify them to various smugglers who would be picking them up
after the tractor-trailer reached its destination.
"We're certainly not stopping at looking at the driver. We're trying to
investigate and identify the different cogs, the stash houses, the other
members, where the money came from," Shane Folden, special agent in charge of
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigations
office in San Antonio, told The Associated Press on Tuesday.
The driver, James Matthew Bradley Jr., 60, of Clearwater, Florida, is facing
charges of illegally transporting immigrants for financial gain, resulting in
death. Bradley could face the death penalty. Authorities allege he drove a
trailer full of immigrants from South Texas that was discovered in the parking
lot of a Walmart in San Antonio early Sunday morning.
Folden said charging Bradley is just the first step in the case as
investigators work to find others involved in the scheme, including those
responsible for facilitating money transfers and bringing the immigrants across
"The ultimate goal is to dismantle the complete organization. You don't get
there by only focusing on one aspect. You have to look at potential targets and
potential related locations, both north and south," he said.
U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar from Texas said he was informed by law enforcement
the tractor-trailer had cleared a Border Patrol checkpoint 29 miles north of
the border on Interstate 35 near Laredo. Cuellar said he didn't know whether
the immigrants were loaded into the truck before or after it crossed the
U.S. authorities are still trying to determine how many people were inside
the tractor-trailer because some fled before police arrived, Folden said.
Thirteen people who rode in the trailer remained hospitalized Tuesday in San
Antonio, said ICE spokesman Greg Palmore. He declined to say how many were
critical or in life-threatening condition. Officials say at least 29 people
survived the smuggling attempt.
Delmin Daro Lpez Colomo, 23, a Guatemalan survivor who remains
hospitalized, said the migrants in the tractor-trailer were delivered by
various different smugglers, according to Cristy Andrino, the consul of
Guatemala in McAllen, Texas.
Adan Lara Vega, 27, a migrant from Mexico who survived the smuggling
attempt, told the AP on Monday that they boarded the truck on a Laredo street
Saturday night for the two-hour trip to San Antonio. He said the trailer was
already full of people, but it was so dark he couldn't tell how many.
At least some of the survivors are likely to become witnesses and receive
consideration to remain in the United States to testify, Folden said.
It's likely that most if not all of the survivors will be allowed to stay in
the country to help authorities in their investigation, said Jeff Vaden, a
former federal prosecutor who helped oversee the prosecution of a 2003
smuggling attempt in Victoria, Texas, in which 19 people died.
Many of the more than 50 immigrants who survived that attempt "were able to
identify the people who harbored them or transported them or to whom they paid
or spoke. That's what enabled the government to put together the larger
smuggling case above just the driver. Just like in any crime, the victims are
critical witnesses," said Vaden, who now is a partner at the Houston law firm
of Bracewell LLP.
Jacob Monty, an immigration lawyer in Houston, said the help the survivors
give to authorities could "lead to permanent residency."
The driver, Bradley, remained jailed on Tuesday. He had his commercial
driving privileges for a truck driver suspended by Florida three months before
Sunday's deadly smuggling attempt, officials said Tuesday.
Court records show that Bradley had been cited repeatedly for violating
federal motor carrier safety regulations in Iowa dating back to 1995. At least
two of the tickets were for logging more hours than allowed.
Federal regulators said they are also conducting an investigation into an
Iowa trucking company whose name was on the trailer. Brian Pyle, owner of Pyle
Transportation, said the trailer had been sold on May 10 to an individual in
Mexico and Bradley was working as an independent contractor to drive it to
Brownsville, Texas, to carry out the sale.
It's unclear what will happen to one of the migrants who died, identified as
19-year-old Frank Guisseppe Fuentes.
His parents, who live in Maryland and are in the U.S. illegally, haven't yet
told Guatemalan officials what they want done with his body, and may fear
agents could come after them if they claim their son, Andrino said.