Two Harlingen men, others accused of smuggling migrants

U.S. Homeland Security Investigations have arrested two Harlingen men and two others accused of attempting to smuggle nine undocumented immigrants into the United States.

Joe Abbott-Rodriguez III and Jose Guadalupe Escobedo, both of Harlingen, and Keyli Castro-Ortiz and Walter Palacios-Alvarez, no addresses available, are each charged with one count of immigrant smuggling.

According to a Nov. 15 federal criminal complaint, the group was spotted on Owen Wilson Road and Comfort Street in San Benito after the HSI agents responded to the area in reference to possible human smuggling.

HSI agents saw a tractor-trailer rig parked in the area and observed several vehicles arrive at the location, where nine people got out of the vehicles and got inside the tractor-trailer’s cargo area. “A wad of cash was exchanged” between the driver of one of the vehicles “to the tractor-trailer occupant,” according to the complaint.

The vehicles left the location and HSI agents checked the tractor-trailer and found the undocumented immigrants inside it. The agents “coordinated vehicle stops” on two of the vehicles in which Abbott Rodriguez III, Escobedo, Castro Ortiz and Palacios Alvarez were riding in, the criminal complaint states.

According to the criminal complaint, Abbott-Rodriguez III and Escobedo admitted to smuggling the undocumented immigrants for monetary gain. Castro-Ortiz stated that three of the undocumented immigrants had been “delivered to the home she shares with Walter Palacios-Alvarez that morning and that Palacios told her” the undocumented immigrants were to be delivered somewhere “to be smuggled into the U.S. interior.”

Abbott-Rodriguez III, Escobedo, Castro-Ortiz and Palacios Alvarez made their initial appearance Wednesday before U.S. Magistrate Judge Ronald G. Morgan. They were remanded to the custody of U.S. Marshals. A preliminary examination hearing for the group is scheduled for Dec.6.