Authorities charged five people on Tuesday, June 20, for their roles in a scheme to smuggle illegal immigrants after an SUV crash in Texas killed at least five people.
Federal prosecutors have charged 20-year-old Jorge Luis Monsivais Jr. of Eagle Pass, 21-year-old Rudy Gomez of Hockley, 19-year-old Johana Gomez of Houston, 55-year-old Marcial Gomez Santana of Mexico and 45-year-old Mariela Reyna of Mexico, according to a Department of Justice statement.
All five suspects have been charged with transporting illegal aliens and conspiracy to transport and harbor illegal aliens resulting in serious bodily injury and death. If found guilty, the suspects face life imprisonment or death, a $250,000 fine, and five years of supervised release.
The incident happened on Sunday, June 17, after Border Patrol agents became suspicious of three vehicles—a 2013 Tahoe, a 2007 Suburban, and a 2008 Tahoe—traveling in a convoy between El Indio and Carrizo Springs, Texas, the statement said.
When the agents approached the vehicles to make immigration inspections, two of the three vehicles led authorities on a high-speed chase.
The driver of the 2007 Suburban, Monsivais, then crashed the vehicle as he entered the town of Big Wells. Monsivais was traveling with 13 suspected illegal immigrants—including one juvenile—at the time of the crash. Four of the passengers died at the scene, and another died on the way to the hospital. Eight other people were transported to a hospital for treatment.
Of the eight people who were injured, one has been released to the custody of Border Patrol, while seven others—including the juvenile—remain in hospital, according to the statement.
Federal prosecutors allege that the driver of the 2008 Tahoe—a 17-year-old U.S. citizen who has not been identified—evaded authorities before coming to a stop. He was detained by agents and is in the custody of Dimmit County authorities. He has not been charged by federal authorities who are continuing their investigation, according to the statement.
The statement also revealed that 23 illegal immigrants were involved in the immigrant smuggling scheme—21 Mexican nationals and two Honduran nationals. Six of the 23 are now being held on federal complaints as material witnesses.
Daryl Fields, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office, told the Associated Press that four of those charged made initial court appearances on Tuesday in Del Rio. Monsivais is scheduled to have his initial court appearance on Wednesday morning.