Border Patrol finds 3 people hidden in spare tire compartment that was nailed shut, man arrested

A U.S. Customs and Border Patrol agent and K-9 security dog keep watch at a checkpoint station, Friday, Feb. 22, 2013, in Falfurrias. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
Only have a minute? Listen instead
Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

Border Patrol agents on Sunday arrested a man at the Falfurrias checkpoint after they found three people concealed in the spare tire compartment that was “screwed shut,” according to a criminal complaint.

Adrian Francisco Ramirez was charged with knowingly and with reckless disregard attempting to smuggle people illegally present in the United States to Houston.

At about 5:30 p.m., a gray Ford Edge arrived at the Falfurrias checkpoint where Ramirez was asked where he was heading. He answered with Houston.

When asked what he did for a living, Ramirez stated that he did insulation at a plant in Corpus Christi.

As this was happening, a K-9 handler notified the agent doing the questioning that his service dog alerted to the vehicle, which resulted in Ramirez being referred for a secondary inspection.

“The search revealed three individuals concealed in the spare tire compartment in the rear of the vehicle,” the complaint said. “It was discovered that the compartment had been screwed shut preventing the occupants from escaping and had to be forcibly opened.”

Agents were able to determine that all three people were from Guatemala and later learned that two of them were unaccompanied juveniles.

Ramirez told agents that he was called by a person known to him as Ricky at 4 p.m. to pick up the Ford and drive it to Houston, according to the complaint.

“Ramirez stated that his cousin gave him Ricky’s number a while back if he wanted to work and he had been communicating with him for the past two weeks,” the complaint said.

He stated that Ricky would give him his location and pay him once Ramirez arrived in Houston.

Ramirez told agents he believed he was taking narcotics to Houston because of the way Ricky was acting during their conversations.

One of the concealed people told authorities that she felt frightened when she heard nails go through the board above their heads once they were inside the compartment.

She added that their shoes were taken from them so they wouldn’t run away.

“Once they were driving, she feared passing out because she thought the heat would harm her pregnancy,” the complaint said.

Ramirez is set to appear before U.S. Magistrate Judge Jason B. Libby in Corpus Christi federal court Friday morning for a detention hearing.