Truck drivers arrested at checkpoints in separate smuggling events

Federal authorities arrested two men at Border Patrol checkpoints in the Rio Grande Valley  this weekend for trying to smuggle people in tractor trailers, with one man telling investigators he was trying to make quick money and the other saying he thought it would be easy to smuggle people through the checkpoint.

On Saturday, Border Patrol arrested Esteban Luna at the Sarita checkpoint after agents discovered 34 people hidden inside a trailer with a temperature of 91.3 degrees, according to a criminal complaint.

Luna arrived at the checkpoint about 12:15 a.m. that morning and stopped 10 feet before the inspection area.

“The Border Patrol Agent working the primary area stated the driver appeared to be flustered and fumbling around in the cab of the truck and not responding to the agent’s instructions to pull up closer,” the complaint stated. “After a few moments the driver eventually pulled forward, slowly, to the inspection area.”

During the inspection process, a Border Patrol K-9 made an alert on the truck.

“During a search of the trailer, Border Patrol agents opened the rear of the refrigerated trailer and immediately felt a rush of hot air. Inside the trailer, agents located 34 individuals inside,” the complaint read. “The trailer did not contain commodity or cargo associated with legitimate tractor and trailer transportation.”

The people inside the trailer were from Honduras, El Salvador, Mexico and Guatemala, according to Border Patrol.

During an interview, Luna told investigators that he needed money and that a friend of his put him in contact with someone who could help him make “quick money,” according to the complaint.

Luna said he picked up the tractor trailer in Donna and was going to be paid $10,000 to drive it to Houston, but said he didn’t know how many people were inside the trailer, Border Patrol said.

He made a first appearance in federal court in Corpus Christi on Monday morning in front of U.S. Magistrate Judge Julie K. Hampton, who ordered him held without bond pending probable cause and detention hearings scheduled for later this week.

Separately, Border Patrol arrested Margarito Bautista Jr. on Thursday at the Falfurrias checkpoint.

He arrived there at 5:35 a.m. in a white Freightliner commercial tractor pulling a grain hopper, according to Border Patrol

While at the inspection area, a Border Patrol canine alerted to Bautista’s vehicle.

At secondary inspection, Bautista said, “I thought it would be easy, I have people,” according to the complaint.

A search of the tractor’s cab revealed eight people in the vehicle’s sleeper compartment split between the top and bottom bed.

Bautista declined to provide a statement, according to the complaint.

He also made a first appearance in Corpus Christi federal court in front of Hampton, who ordered him held without bond pending probable cause and detention hearings scheduled for later this week.