San Antonio – Federal investigators have filed charges against seven people accused of taking part in human smuggling in connection with Thursday’s bust in Southwest Bexar County.
All of the suspects were drivers or passengers of vehicles stopped by Bexar County Sheriff’s Office investigators Thursday afternoon after they left a property in the 11200 block of Briggs Road, where a neighbor had reported seeing 50 people exit a tractor trailer, according to a criminal complaint filed Friday in the U.S. Western District Court.
All seven are accused of transporting 14 undocumented immigrants within the United States, which can carry a punishment of up to 10 years in prison if done for financial gain, which appears likely given the tens of thousands of dollars found by investigators.
Three of the passenger vehicles BCSO investigators stopped were carrying four or five undocumented immigrants each. There were three unknown people in a fourth vehicle, too, but investigators said they escaped into thick brush.
The driver of that vehicle also tried to run but was quickly caught.
The suspects from the passenger vehicles were identified as: Rigoberto Garduza-Coy, Juan Angel Munoz-Molina, Alma Serrano, Marco Antonio Salazar Jr., and Netsai Moreno Suarez.
Investigators found approximately $41,000 in Moreno-Suarez’s purse. She and Salazar, who was driving the SUV they were both stopped in, told investigators they had picked up the cash from the mobile home on the Briggs Road property and had been instructed to deliver it.
Salazar said he had been contacted by a female he only knew as “La Madrina,” a Spanish word for godmother, and that he was going to be paid $150 per person he picked up.
He told investigators he was supposed to deliver the immigrants and the cash to an unknown location after being contacted by La Madrina.
Moreno-Suarez relayed a similar story to investigators, though she said her contact was someone named Maria Rodriguez. She also told investigators she didn’t know how much Rodriguez was going to pay her for transporting the immigrants.
She also confirmed to investigators that the undocumented immigrants had been transported in the back of the tractor trailer.
Garduza-Coy, Serrano, and Moreno Suarez are Mexican nationals and Munoz-Molina is a Honduran national, according to court documents. Aside from Salazar, who is a U.S. citizen, none of them have documentation to be in the United States.
Investigators wrote in the criminal complaint that Salazar had previously been arrested for smuggling undocumented immigrants in 2009.
BCSO also stopped the tractor trailer that had originally smuggled the immigrants from Laredo, which had two men in it: Soron WIlliams and Rey Thomas.
Williams said he had picked up what he thought was 40 immigrants in Laredo and was escorted up to the Briggs Road property by Salazar and Moreno-Suarez in their SUV. Williams told investigators he was supposed to be paid $72,500.
Thomas, his passenger, said this was his second time transporting undocumented immigrants, and Moreno-Suarez had paid him and Williams $15,000 each for the first time.