Trucker in deadly San Antonio smuggling case pleads not guilty

By Greg Grisolano, Land Line Digital Content Editor | Thursday, August 31, 2017

A Texas truck driver who was hauling a load smuggled humans has entered a plea of not guilty to charges.

James Matthew Bradley Jr. waived his right to an arraignment as well, according to court documents. A federal grand jury indicted him on Aug. 16 of five counts, including conspiracy to transport and harbor undocumented aliens for financial gain. Bradley entered his plea on Aug. 24.

A five-count federal indictment alleges that Bradley’s conduct on July 22 and July 23 resulted in the deaths of 10 men – Ruben Hernandez-Vargas, Osbaldo Rodriguez-Cerda,
Frank Fuentes-Gonzalez, Jorge Reyes-Noveron, Mariano Lopez-Cano, Jose Rodriguez-Aspeitia,
Benjamin Martinez-Arredondo, Ricardo Martinez-Esparza and two unidentified males.

The indictment states that Bradley “did, knowing or in reckless disregard” attempt to transport and move about 40 undocumented aliens for the purpose of commercial advantage or private financial gain, in violation of U.S. laws.

According to the complaint affidavit filed by Special Agent James Lara, San Antonio Police Department officers responded shortly after midnight on Sunday, July 23 to a call at the Wal-Mart store at 8538 Interstate 25 Access Road in San Antonio. 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 said he discovered them only when he exited the vehicle to relieve himself. He said he attempted to administer aid to them. San Antonio Police officers reported they found eight deceased persons and 30 to 40 others, all undocumented.

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 from 70 to 180-200 people during transport. They described differing fees for being transported.

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