SAN ANTONIO – Justin McDaniel has been a custom 18-wheeler truck shop owner in Wisconsin for five years but on Sunday, he was wrongfully accused of being a part of a human smuggling scheme with ties to San Antonio by selling a truck to James M. Bradley Jr.
On Monday, a federal complaint was filed against Bradley alleging he "unlawfully transported aliens in violation of law, resulting in the death of 10 of the aliens transported." Eight undocumented immigrants were found dead in the back of a trailer hauled by Bradley's semi-truck in San Antonio Sunday morning. Two of the 31 survivors rescued from the trailer have since died.
“We were definitely proud of that build and that one was special to us. We had that truck in-house for six months and it was a lot of work,” McDaniel, the owner of Outlaw Iron, said by phone Monday morning. “We put a ton of effort into it and now received bad publicity over this (truck).”
McDaniel, 29, said he listed a refurbished 1999 Peterbilt tractor on a trucking publication named Truckpaper.com on Feb. 6, and a day later, Bradley called him wanting to buy the truck.
“Pretty much when he came and looked at the truck, he was ecstatic and excited,” McDaniel said.
McDaniel said it took six months to build and restore it by giving it a custom paint job, new upholstery and interior, and was fabricated to make the truck appear long and low.
TRENDING ON KSAT.COM: Human smuggling suspect James Bradley could face death penalty, life in prison
“That apparently caught the attention of Mr. Bradley’s eye and he approached us in purchasing the truck and that’s how the deal started,” McDaniel said.
During the process of purchasing the truck, McDaniel said he got to know a little about Bradley, 60, and was shocked when he heard the news of him being the driver behind the human smuggling scheme that has killed 10 and injured 29 undocumented immigrants.
“I talked to him a few times while he was in town and he seemed like a super nice guy, very well-mannered, very polite … just a Southern boy,” McDaniel said.
As a result of the charges, Bradley could face the death penalty or life in prison, a $250,000 fine, and three years of supervised release.
According to The Washington Post, Bradley was an owner-operator working with Pyle Transportation, a hauling firm in Schaller, Iowa, and the company’s name was emblazoned on the truck.
Brian Pyle, owner of Pyle Transportation, told The Washington Post that Bradley operated largely independently and this past weekend’s trip was his first one with his company.
However, McDaniel said during the buying process, Bradley traveled the six hours from Schaller, Iowa, to his shop in West Bend, Wisconsin, in a Pyle Transportation company truck.
“(Bradley) told me he used to be an owner-operator years ago, and then told me he was a company driver for a company out of Iowa called Pyle Transportation,” McDaniel said. “He actually came up here in one of their company trucks and had another gentleman drive him back when he purchased our truck. His intentions were to lease it onto Pyle and pull straight from them.”
Even though Bradley purchased the tractor truck in early March, the sale now haunts McDaniel after his company was scrutinized on social media Sunday night for allegedly being involved in the human smuggling scheme with Bradley.
“We were getting a lot sarcastic comments and a lot of negative comments,” McDaniel said. “I think people were misinterpreting and thinking it was my company that owns the truck and dispatching it and that’s clearly not the case.”
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McDaniel said like most trucking businesses, he does not do background checks on their customers.
No federal or local officials have contacted him but suspects since he sold the truck to Bradley, he will be notified sooner than later, McDaniel said.
“It really did, to be honest, caught me by surprise as he doesn’t seem like that type kind of guy at all,” McDaniel said. “We are not proud what he did with the truck, that’s absolutely terrible and sad, it’s frustrating, and prayers to the families involved.”
Phone calls made by KSAT.com to all five contact listings on Pyle Transportation’s now-deleted website that includes owner Brian Pyle were not answered.
However, a call to the main number of Pyle Transportation was answered but after asking for a representative of the company, a woman on the phone said, “Not her,” and hung up.
Emails sent to Pyle Transportation’s main email along with owner Brian Pyle were not replied.
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