Detention center workers charged in scheme to smuggle immigrants (Houston Chronicle)

Date Posted News: 
Nov 13 2007
Author: 
Houston Chronicle
Teaser: 

SARITA, Texas — Four employees of a privately run immigration detention center have been charged on accusations that they used company vehicles to smuggle illegal immigrants through checkpoints, a U.S. attorney said Tuesday.

Body: 

SARITA, Texas — Four employees of a privately run immigration detention center have been charged on accusations that they used company vehicles to smuggle illegal immigrants through checkpoints, a U.S. attorney said Tuesday.

Immigration officials arrested Carlos Miguel Garcia, 36, and Benjamin Lopez Sanchez, 36, both of Raymondville, after the men tried to smuggle 28 illegal immigrants late Thursday in South Texas, U.S. Attorney Don DeGabrielle said. They were charged with transporting illegal immigrants.

Also arrested were Juan Trevino Jr., 27, and Alberto Vasquez, 37, both of Harlingen. They were charged with conspiring to transport illegal immigrants between Sept. 1 and Nov. 8.

All four are employees of Centerville, Utah-based Management Training Corp., which runs the Willacy County Detention Center for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Trevino and Vasquez are sergeants at the facility.

Officials with Management Training Corp. did not immediately return telephone calls seeking comment.

It wasn't immediately clear whether the men had attorneys.

According to a criminal complaint, Garcia and Sanchez were arrested early Friday morning after trying to smuggle 28 illegal immigrants from Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador through the U.S. Border Patrol's Sarita checkpoint, located about 100 miles north of Brownsville.

Garcia and Sanchez were wearing their uniforms and driving a company van filled with the immigrants, prosecutors said.

They told Border Patrol agents they were transporting 28 prisoners to San Antonio. But agents found no record of the transport and also noticed that the van was overloaded, none of the alleged prisoners were shackled and many of them had luggage, officials said.

Trevino and Vasquez were arrested Sunday at their homes.

Prosecutors accuse Trevino of recruiting Vasquez, Garcia and Sanchez to pick up and transport illegal immigrants smuggled into the United States from locations near Harlingen past the Sarita checkpoint and beyond in company vehicles.

Vasquez is accused of organizing the use of company vans for the scheme.

Trevino and Vasquez appeared in a Brownsville federal court Tuesday and were ordered held without bond pending a detention hearing Friday. Garcia and Sanchez were expected to make a court appearance in Corpus Christi on Tuesday.

If convicted, all four defendants face up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.

The four men work at a 2,000-bed detention center about an hour north of the border in Willacy County. The detention center consists of 10 tent-like structures that house immigrants.