Federal authorities have charged a truck driver with illegally transporting immigrants. He faces the death penalty after 10 of the smuggled immigrants died this weekend in San Antonio.
James Matthew Bradley, Jr., 60, is charged with one count of transporting illegal immigrants, according to a criminal indictment filed by United States Attorney Richard L. Durbin, Jr.,
The complaint alleges that Bradley unlawfully transported people in violation of law, resulting in the death of 10 of the people transported. The tenth person, an adult male, died Sunday at a hospital. Upon conviction, the offense is punishable by life imprisonment or death, a $250,000 fine, and three years of supervised release.
According to the complaint affidavit filed by Special Agent James Lara, San Antonio Police Department (SAPD) Officers responded to a call at the Wal-Mart store located at 8538 Interstate 25 Access Road in San Antonio shortly after midnight on Sunday, July 23. An officer encountered a tractor-trailer behind the store, finding a number of people standing and lying in the rear of the trailer, and the driver, Bradley, in the cab.
Bradley said he was transporting the trailer from Schaller, Iowa, to Brownsville, Texas. He denied knowing there were people in the trailer, and discovered them only when he exited the vehicle to relieve himself. He said he attempted to administer aid to them. Law enforcement officers from SAPD reported they found eight deceased persons and 30-40 others, all undocumented. Bradley was taken into custody.
Bradley told authorities he was traveling from Laredo to San Antonio, after having the tractor-trailer washed and detailed at a truck stop near Laredo. He intended to take the trailer to Brownsville to deliver it to someone who had purchased it. He stopped at the Wal-Mart and heard banging and shaking in the trailer. He was surprised when “he was run over by ‘Spanish’ people and knocked to the ground,” the affidavit stated. He realized that at least one person was dead. He said he knew the trailer refrigeration system did not work and that the four vent holes probably were clogged. He said he called his wife, but he did not call 911. He said about 30 to 40 people ran from the trailer.
Several of the people taken from the trailer and interviewed by authorities described how they had been smuggled across the Rio Grande River near Laredo at different times and as part of different groups. They were harbored in one or more stash locations, and on Sunday the groups were assembled in the trailer. One said his group of 24 had been in a “stash house” in Laredo for 11 days before being loaded into the trailer. They estimated that the trailer contained between 70 and 180 to 200 people during transport. They described differing fees for being transported.
“To maximize their criminal profits, these human smugglers crammed more than 100 people into a tractor trailer in the stifling Texas summer heat resulting in 10 dead and 29 others hospitalized,” acting interim director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement Thomas Homan said in a statement. “Human smugglers have repeatedly demonstrated that they have absolutely no regard for human life. Our ICE agents and officers, working closely with our law enforcement partners, will pursue these smugglers and bring them to justice.”
The U. S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) is leading this investigation together with ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations, the San Antonio Police Department and the San Antonio Fire Department, with assistance from the Bexar County Sheriff’s Office and the U. S. Customs and Border Protection’s Border Patrol.
Assistant United States Attorney Christina Playton is prosecuting this case on behalf of the government.
In fiscal year 2016, HSI initiated 2,110 human smuggling investigations, which resulted in 1,522 criminal convictions. During that same year, HSI made 2,734 criminal arrests and 3,007 administrative arrests related to human smuggling operations.
To report suspected human smuggling activity, contact the HSI tip line at 866-DHS-2-ICE or local law enforcement.
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