Houston men arrested by Border Patrol after stealing vehicle in Edinburg

Christian Brayden Hardy and Jesus Jonathan Rodriguez
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Two Houston men were arrested by Border Patrol agents early Monday morning after they stole a vehicle in Edinburg because their original vehicle that they planned to smuggle two people to San Antonio in broke down, according to a criminal complaint.

Christian Brayden Hardy and Jesus Jonathan Rodriguez, both 18, have been federally charged with attempting to transport people illegally present in the United States using a stolen vehicle. They are also facing state charges of aggravated robbery.

At about 12:01 a.m. on Monday, Border Patrol agents encountered a blue Ford Fiesta driven by Hardy with Rodriguez as his passenger.

Hardy told the agents they were heading back to Houston after being in the Rio Grande Valley for a “short time” while Rodriguez kept quiet but displayed “nervous” behavior, according to the complaint.

They were then referred to the secondary inspection area when agents asked Hardy to open the trunk to the Fiesta, but he struggled to do so. Hardy then handed the keys to an agent who found two men inside the trunk.

One man was from Guatemala and the other from Mexico. They both freely told agents they were illegally present in the country.

Agents discovered a loaded 9mm Smith and Wesson pistol on Rodriguez’s waistband with one round in the chamber, the complaint said.

In an interview with authorities, Rodriguez admitted to knowingly smuggling people and said he was going to get paid $2,000 per person. He also stated that he recruited Hardy because Rodriguez didn’t have a driver’s license.

As they headed down to the Valley, their truck began to have mechanical issues and broke down several times before they had it towed to a mechanic shop.

That’s when they decided to steal a vehicle at a gas station near the mechanic’s shop, according to the complaint.

A news release from the city of Edinburg stated that police responded to 4420 W. University Drive on Sunday in regards to an aggravated robbery.

“Rodriguez and Hardy targeted a vehicle and they approached the driver and requested to use his phone,” the complaint said. “Rodriguez stated Hardy got into a tussle with the unknown man. Rodriguez then brandished his weapon that was on Rodriguez’ waist and told the man that this was not worth him losing his life.”

The victim later told police that “he felt scared and feared for his life” when they pointed the gun at him, according to the complaint.

Rodriguez tossed the man’s phone so the man wouldn’t be able to call police once they had left the scene.

Shortly after 6:30 p.m., Edinburg police made contact with the victim who stated he was getting water when Rodriguez and Hardy approached him, asking to borrow his phone, only to be pushed out of his vehicle that was then taken, according to the news release.

Hardy told Border Patrol that he knew Rodriguez from high school and said he had approached him with a job to smuggle people to San Antonio for $1,500. Because of his financial situation, he decided to help Rodriguez.

They left Houston on Saturday and began having mechanical issues so they stayed in a hotel in Raymondville in the meantime, according to the complaint.

Once they were in the mechanic shop in Edinburg, Rodriguez told Hardy that they had to scare someone into giving them their vehicle.

After escaping with the stolen Fiesta, Rodriguez called the smuggler to inform him that they were “ready to proceed with the smuggling venture.”

The duo then met the smuggler at a Junior’s Supermarket and followed him to a location where the men who were to be smuggled were at.

Once there, they instructed the men to get into the backseat of the Fiesta. Rodriguez later told the men to unlatch the backseats and crawl into the trunk 10 minutes before arriving at the Border Patrol checkpoint near Falfurrias, the complaint said.

Edinburg police were able to confirm Rodriguez and Hardy as being the ones to steal the Fiesta outside a Stripes convenience store in Edinburg after reviewing surveillance video.

The smuggling duo are set to reappear before U.S. Magistrate Judge Julie K. Hampton in Corpus Christi federal court for their preliminary examination and detention hearing Friday morning.