Grand Jury Indicts Four Over Deadliest Human Smuggling Incident In U.S. History

Grand Jury Indicts Four Over Deadliest Human Smuggling Incident In U.S. History

A federal grand jury on Thursday indicted four men on charges related to the deadliest known migrant smuggling attempt in U.S. history.

The jury delivered indictments against 46-year-old Homero Zamorano Jr. of Pasadena, Texas, and 28-year-old Christian Martinez of Palestine, Texas, with four counts each related to the alleged trafficking of illegal aliens and minors, which resulted in serious harm or death. If found guilty of the charges, the men face a maximum sentence of life in prison or the death penalty, according to the United States Attorney’s Office of the Western District of Texas.

In late June, law enforcement discovered an abandoned tractor-trailer near San Antonio, Texas, holding 63 migrants. They were locked inside without water in the summer heat, and 50 adults and three minors died due to the incident.

The charges against the two men are at least partly due to information pulled from Zamorano’s cell phone, which showed the men allegedly communicating about illegally trafficking the migrants into the United States.

The grand jury delivered indictments against two Mexican nationals, as well. The charges accuse Juan Claudio D’Luna-Mendez, 23, and Juan Francisco D’Luna-Bilbao, 48, each of one count of possessing a firearm while in the United States illegally. Both men face up to ten years in prison if convicted.

Law enforcement traced the tractor-trailer to a San Antonio residence apparently used by the men. They eventually left the location in separate vehicles and were tailed by law enforcement, who eventually stopped each man. Officers found a gun in the truck D’Luna-Bilboa was driving and additional firearms while searching the residence.

The discovery of the tractor-trailer and dozens of dead migrants spurred Texas Governor Greg Abbott (R) to overhaul the state’s system of checkpoints and vehicle inspections along the Mexico border.

According to Abbott’s June 29 announcement, the Texas Department of Public Safety “will create and implement a checkpoint strategy beginning immediately where they will begin targeting trucks like the one that was used where these people perished.”

The governor has routinely strengthened Texas’ border enforcement as the Biden administration continues to fail to stem a flood of illegal immigrants crossing into the United States. In June, Border Patrol agents tallied 153,379 unique encounters with migrants crossing the southern border. The total number of encounters is down about 14% from May, which set a record for the number of encounters in a month. The drop in encounters, however, is not all that unexpected as illegal migration tends to decrease in the summer months as temperatures increase.