Loud music at Sarita checkpoint draws suspicion, ends in 2 arrests

Fraudulent Puerto Rico identification cards, a carefree sing along to the radio and a story about a group of friends visiting South Padre Island didn’t fool Border Patrol agents working Monday at the Sarita checkpoint.

Instead, the alleged story told by Yolanda Cordoba and Giovanna Bello-Roa fell apart and now the pair is facing a federal charge of transporting five people in the country illegally.

A criminal complaint said the group arrived at the checkpoint at about 12:10 p.m. Monday in a GMC Yukon driven by Cordoba, who, when asked, told an agent that she was a U.S. citizen.

“The agent then asked Cordoba to roll down the back window and to lower the music playing from the car radio,” the complaint stated.

Once the window was rolled down, the agent asked a man whether he was a citizen and the man replied, but the agent could not hear him because the music was too loud, according to Border Patrol.

“The agent again ordered Cordoba to lower the volume of the music, but she failed to comply as she continued singing along to the music,” the complaint said. “Once again, the agent ordered Cordoba to lower the music so he could talk to everyone in the vehicle.”

Border Patrol said she finally lowered the music and the man in the back nodded his head yes when asked whether he was a citizen, prompting the agent to ask where he was born.

“At that time, a woman later identified as Giovanna Bello-Roa, in the third-row seat leaned forward and stated, ‘We are all friends, and they are citizens,'” the complaint said.

Border Patrol says she was referring to five men in the vehicle.

“The agent noticed how Bello began handing out cans of soda to the back passengers and telling them to drink them,” the complaint continued.

As agents continued questioning one of the men, he handed the agent an identification card from Puerto Rico, according to the complaint.

“The agent noticed (his) hand was shaking as he presented the ID card,” the complaint stated.

The agent again began questioning Cordoba and asked everyone in the vehicle where they were going.

“Cordoba stated, ‘They are all my friends, we are going back home to Houston from the beach,'” the complaint said.

When the agent began questioning another man’s citizenship, Cordoba interrupted and said he was her friend from Houston, according to Border Patrol.

“Due to (his) nervousness, Cordoba not lowering the music when the agent attempted to inspect the passengers, and both Cordoba and Bello-Roa answering for the passengers, the agent directed Cordoba to park in secondary for further inspection,” the complaint said.

And once in secondary, Cordoba turned the music up to “an extremely high volume.”

This time agents made everyone exit the vehicle and separated them.

Cordoba claimed she had picked up a rental vehicle last Thursday morning and picked everyone up from their homes in Houston and took them to visit South Padre Island, according to Border Patrol.

“Cordoba was unable to provide a location in Houston where any of the five male passengers lived or where she picked them up,” the complaint stated.

The five men all presented identification cards to Border Patrol, all of which came back as fraudulent, according to the complaint.

“Even after being presented this information, all five subjects continued to claim they were Puerto Rican, even though they were unable to describe basic knowledge of Puerto Rico,” the complaint continued.

Eventually, the men admitted to being from the Dominican Republic and to being in the country illegally, the complaint said.

The women made a first appearance in federal court in Corpus Christi Wednesday morning in front of U.S. Magistrate Judge Julie K. Hampton, who ordered them temporarily held without bond pending probable cause and detention hearings scheduled for early next week, court records show.