SAN ANTONIO – Three people are in federal custody in connection with a human smuggling operation at a far West Side shopping center Friday morning.
Angel Villafranca, 17, Juan Garcia Jr., 17, and Fernando Castanon, 20, were taken into the custody of Homeland Security, according to an arrest affidavit.
During an interview with Homeland Security, Castanon said he was hired by Garcia to provide security for a big rig that was transporting a group of undocumented immigrants from Mexico to the U.S.
Castanon was told by Villafranca that his job was to make sure some immigrants were moved into other vehicles and the others were moved to “stash houses” throughout San Antonio, the affidavit said.
Garcia also recruited Villafranca to be a part of the operation with a third unidentified person, investigators said.
Gracia, Villafranca, and the third unidentified person waited for a call that the truck had crossed into the U.S and then began following them until they stopped in San Antonio.
The three were part of a group of nearly 30 people who were taken into custody after police spotted them climbing out the back of a big rig and scattering across the parking lot of a shopping center near Loop 410 and Highway 151.
Police said they chased down the immigrants, finding some of them hiding in garbage dumpsters in the shopping center, the affidavit said. Investigators later discovered 25 people had been inside the cargo area of the tractor-trailer.
They said most of them appeared to have been smuggled from various countries in Central America.
All of them were turned over to the Department of Homeland Security. When interviewed, some of the people told investigators they had paid a fee to be taken across the US-Mexico border and into Texas.
Garcia admitted to investigators that he did receive money to ensure the tractor-trailer crossed the border to San Antonio. Investigators said that Villafranca corroborated Garcia’s story.
Garcia, Villafranca, and Castanon are all facing federal charges of smuggling of persons, records show.